• OCDS;
  • Young Adult;
  • Alcohol;
  • Craving

Background:  Alcohol craving is associated with greater alcohol-related problems and less favorable treatment prognosis. The Obsessive Compulsive Drinking Scale (OCDS) is the most widely used alcohol craving instrument. The OCDS has been validated in adults with alcohol use disorders (AUDs), which typically emerge in early adulthood. This study examines the validity of the OCDS in a nonclinical sample of young adults.

Methods:  Three hundred and nine college students (mean age of 21.8 years, SD = 4.6 years) completed the OCDS, Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), and measures of alcohol consumption. Subjects were randomly allocated to 2 samples. Construct validity was examined via exploratory factor analysis (= 155) and confirmatory factor analysis (= 154). Concurrent validity was assessed using the AUDIT and measures of alcohol consumption. A second, alcohol-dependent sample (mean age 42 years, SD 12 years) from a previously published study (n = 370) was used to assess discriminant validity.

Results:  A unique young adult OCDS factor structure was validated, consisting of Interference/Control, Frequency of Obsessions, Alcohol Consumption and Resisting Obsessions/Compulsions. The young adult 4-factor structure was significantly associated with the AUDIT and alcohol consumption. The 4 factor OCDS successfully classified nonclinical subjects in 96.9% of cases and the older alcohol-dependent patients in 83.7% of cases. Although the OCDS was able to classify college nonproblem drinkers (AUDIT <13, n = 224) with 83.2% accuracy, it was no better than chance (49.4%) in classifying potential college problem drinkers (AUDIT score ≥13, n = 85).

Conclusions:  Using the 4-factor structure, the OCDS is a valid measure of alcohol craving in young adult populations. In this nonclinical set of students, the OCDS classified nonproblem drinkers well but not problem drinkers. Studies need to further examine the utility of the OCDS in young people with alcohol misuse.