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Initial Preference for Drinking Goal in the Treatment of Alcohol Problems: II. Treatment Outcomes

Simon J. Adamson, Nick Heather, Veronica Morton, Duncan Raistrick
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/agq005 136-142 First published online: 3 February 2010

Abstract

Aims: To compare treatment outcomes between clients preferring abstinence and those preferring non-abstinence at the screening stage of a randomized controlled trial of treatment for alcohol problems (the United Kingdom Alcohol Treatment Trial) and to interpret any differential outcome in light of baseline differences between goal preference groups outlined in an accompanying paper.

Methods: Outcomes at 3 and 12 months’ follow-up were recorded both in categorical terms (abstinence/non-problem drinking/much improved/somewhat improved/same/worse) and on continuous measures (percent days abstinent, drinks per drinking day/dependence score).

Results: Clients initially stating a preference for abstinence showed a better outcome than those stating a preference for non-abstinence. This superior outcome was clearer at 3 months’ follow-up but still evident at 12 months’ follow-up. The better outcome consisted almost entirely in a greater frequency of abstinent days, with only a modest benefit in drinking intensity for goal abstainers that disappeared when baseline covariates of goal preference were controlled for. Type of successful outcome (abstinence/non-problem drinking) was related to initial goal preference, with clients preferring abstinence more likely to obtain an abstinent outcome and those preferring non-abstinence a non-problem drinking outcome.

Conclusion: The client’s personal drinking goals should be discussed in assessment at treatment entry and as a basis for negotiation. Clinicians should be prepared to identify and support goal change as an unexceptional part of the treatment process that need not jeopardize good outcome.

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