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Keywords:

  • Alcoholism;
  • Craving;
  • Questionnaire;
  • Reliability;
  • Validity

Background: This study introduces the Penn Alcohol Craving Scale (PACS), which has been used in several clinical trials at the University of Pennsylvania's Treatment Research Center. The PACS is a five-item, self-report measure that includes questions about the frequency, intensity, and duration of craving, the ability to resist drinking, and asks for an overall rating of craving for alcohol for the previous week. Each question is scaled from 0 to 6.

Methods: To examine the questionnaire's psychometric properties, we sampled responses from 147 individuals participating in a 9-month combined natrexone (100 mg/day)/psychotherapy trial. The psychotherapy consisted of weekly sessions of nurse-administered medication compliance and supportive treatment.

Results: The PACS proved to have excellent internal consistency. Predictive validity was demonstrated via a logistic regression analysis of craving during the 2nd week of the study on alcohol relapse during weeks 3-12 of the trial. Construct validity of the PACS was demonstrated via its convergence with two commonly used measures for assessing craving, the Obsessive Compulsive Drinking Scale and the Alcohol Urge Questionnaire. Lack of correlation between PACS scores and several other noncraving, self-report measures indicates that the PACS also had good discriminant validity. Additional analyses revealed that there were significant differences in craving scores during the initial 3 weeks of the trial among those who did and those who did not relapse during weeks 3-12.

Conclusion: The PACS is a reliable and valid measure of alcohol craving and can predict which individuals are at risk for subsequent relapse.