The effect of drinking goals at treatment entry on longitudinal alcohol use patterns among adults with alcohol dependence

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Sep 1;132(1-2):182-8. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.01.018. Epub 2013 Feb 21.


Background: Drinking goals at treatment entry are a promising, yet under-studied mechanism of change in alcohol use following treatment. It is not known who, upon treatment entry, is likely to desire abstinence as a drinking goal and whether desiring abstinence as a drinking goal influences alcohol use following treatment.

Methods: Data from a 2.5-year longitudinal study of alcohol-dependent adults from 3 treatment sites is examined in a secondary data analysis. At treatment entry, participants reported sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, as well as whether they desired abstinence as a drinking goal or not. At each subsequent wave, participants reported their alcohol use.

Results: Bivariate analyses showed that individuals from a VA outpatient treatment site, men, and racial or ethnic minorities were most likely to desire abstinence as a drinking goal at treatment entry. Multi-level mixed effects regression models indicated that individuals who at baseline desired abstinence as a drinking goal sustained higher percentage of days abstinent and higher percentage of days since last drink 2.5 years following treatment entry, compared to individuals who did not desire abstinence.

Conclusions: Understanding who is most likely to desire the specific drinking goal of abstinence can assist clinicians in anticipating client response to goal setting. Furthermore, by understanding the benefits and risks associated with drinking goals, clinicians can focus attention to individuals who desire a more risk-laden goal, including goals of non-abstinence, and tailor interventions, including motivational interviewing techniques, to support effective goals.

Keywords: Abstinence; Alcohol dependence; Drinking goals; Motivational interview; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / therapy*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spirituality
  • Temperance
  • Treatment Outcome