Post-treatment Low-risk Drinking as a Predictor of Future Drinking and Problem Outcomes among Individuals with Alcohol Use Disorders: A 9-year Follow-up.

Research paper by Andrea H AH Kline-Simon, Raye Z RZ Litten, Constance M CM Weisner, Daniel E DE Falk

Indexed on: 11 Jan '17Published on: 11 Jan '17Published in: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research


Treatment for alcohol use disorders has traditionally been abstinence-oriented, but new research and regulatory guidelines suggest that low-risk drinking may also be an acceptable treatment outcome. However, little is known about long-term outcomes for patients who become low-risk drinkers post-treatment. This study explores a post-treatment low-risk drinking outcome as a predictor of future drinking and psychosocial outcomes over 9 years.Study participants were adults with alcohol use disorders at treatment entry who received follow-up interviews 6 months post-treatment intake (N=1061) in two large randomized studies conducted at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, a large private, nonprofit, integrated health system. Six-month drinking status was defined as abstinent, low-risk (non-abstinent, no 5+ drinking days), or heavy drinking (1 or more days of 5+ drinks). Using logistic regression models we explored the relationship between past 30-day drinking status at 6 months and odds of being abstinent or a low-risk drinker (compared to heavy drinking), and positive Addiction Severity Index psychosocial outcomes over 9 years (9-year follow-up rate of 73%).Abstainers and low-risk drinkers at 6 months had higher odds of recent abstinence/low-risk drinking over 9 years than heavy drinkers; abstainers had better drinking outcomes than low-risk drinkers. Additionally, among those with interview data, 95% of abstainers and 94% of low-risk drinkers at 6 months were abstinent/low-risk drinkers at 9 years; surprisingly 89% of heavy drinkers at 6 months were also abstinent/low-risk drinkers though still significantly fewer than the other groups. Abstainers and low-risk drinkers at 6 months had better psychiatric outcomes and abstainers had better family/social outcomes than heavy drinkers; medical outcomes did not differ. Low-risk drinkers and abstainers showed no reliable differences across psychosocial measures.The findings suggest that a low-risk drinking outcome may be reasonable over the long-term for some alcohol-dependent individuals receiving addiction treatment. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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