Feasibility of a telehealth-based contingency management intervention for alcohol use disorders using the phosphatidylethanol (PEth) 16:0/18:1 alcohol biomarker: a pilot randomized trial

Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2024 Mar 3;50(2):162-172. doi: 10.1080/00952990.2023.2283691. Epub 2024 Jan 29.


Background: Phosphatidylethanol (PEth) is a blood-based biomarker for alcohol consumption that can be self-collected and has high sensitivity, specificity, and a longer detection window compared to other alcohol biomarkers.Objectives: We evaluated the feasibility and acceptability of a telehealth-based contingency management (CM) intervention for alcohol use disorder (AUD) using the blood-based biomarker PEth to assess alcohol consumption.Methods: Sixteen adults (7 female, 9 male) with AUD were randomized to Control or CM conditions. Control participants received reinforcers regardless of their PEth levels. CM participants received reinforcers for week-to-week decreases in PEth (Phase 1) or maintenance of PEth consistent with abstinence (<20 ng/mL, Phase 2). Blood samples were self-collected using the TASSO-M20 device. Acceptability was assessed by retention in weeks. Satisfaction was assessed with the Client Satisfaction Questionnaire (CSQ-8) and qualitative interviews. The primary efficacy outcome was PEth-defined abstinence. Secondary outcomes included the proportion of visits with PEth-defined heavy alcohol consumption, negative urine ethyl glucuronide results, and self-reported alcohol use.Results: Retention averaged 18.6 ± 8.8 weeks for CM participants. CM participants reported high levels of satisfaction (CSQ-8, Mean = 30.3 ± 1.5). Interview themes included intervention positives, such as staff support, quality of life improvement, and accountability. 72% of PEth samples from CM participants were consistent with abstinence versus 34% for Control participants (OR = 5.0, p = 0.007). PEth-defined heavy alcohol consumption was detected in 28% of CM samples and 52% of Control samples (OR = 0.36, p = 0.159). CM participants averaged 1.9 ± 1.7 drinks/day versus 4.2 ± 6.3 for Control participants (p = 0.304).Conclusion: Results support the acceptability and satisfaction of a telehealth PEth-based CM intervention, though a larger study is needed to assess its efficacy [NCT04038021].

Keywords: Contingency management (CM); TASSO-M20; alcohol use disorder (AUD); phosphatidylethanol (PEth); telehealth.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / therapy
  • Alcoholism* / therapy
  • Behavior Therapy / methods
  • Biomarkers* / blood
  • Feasibility Studies*
  • Female
  • Glycerophospholipids* / blood
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Pilot Projects
  • Telemedicine* / methods


  • phosphatidylethanol
  • Glycerophospholipids
  • Biomarkers

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04038021