Objective: Negative affect is a significant predictor of alcohol relapse, and the relation between negative affect and drinking has been shown to be strongly mediated by alcohol craving. Thus, targeting craving during treatment could potentially attenuate the relation between negative affect and drinking.
Method: The current study is a secondary analysis of data from the COMBINE study, a randomized clinical trial that combined pharmacotherapy with behavioral intervention in the treatment of alcohol dependence. Our goal in the current study was to examine whether a treatment module that targeted craving would predict changes in negative mood during the 16-week combined behavioral intervention (n = 776) and the relation among changes in mood, craving, and changes in heavy drinking during treatment and 1 year posttreatment.
Results: Changes in negative mood were significantly associated with changes in heavy drinking during treatment (f² = 0.78). Participants (n = 432) who received the craving module had significantly fewer heavy drinking days during treatment (d = 0.31), and receiving the module moderated the relation between negative mood and heavy drinking during treatment (f² = 0.92) and 1 year posttreatment (f² = 0.03). Moderating effects of the craving module were mediated by changes in craving during treatment. Within-subject analyses indicated significant pre- to postmodule reductions in negative mood. Additionally, postmodule craving significantly mediated the association between negative mood and heavy drinking during treatment and at posttreatment.
Conclusions: The craving module of the combined behavioral intervention may weaken the relation between negative affect and heavy drinking by fostering greater decreases in craving during treatment.