Non-abstinent recovery may be possible for those with Alcohol Use Disorder

1. This quantitative study found that non-abstinent alcohol use disorder recovery is sustainable up to 10 years after treatment.

2. Individuals with a profile of high functioning, infrequent nonheavy drinking at year 3 had the best overall outcomes at year 10.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is common, and abstinence from alcohol is a goal of many major treatment programs. Abstinence has previously been positively associated with better psychosocial functioning and physical health. However, some individuals with AUD attempt to reduce their alcohol use rather than choosing abstinence. It is unclear whether individuals who choose this route of recovery can maintain their progress.

This retrospective quantitative study was a secondary analysis of data from Project MATCH (Matching Alcoholism Treatment to Client Heterogeneity). Project MATCH was a randomized clinical trial comparing 3 treatments for AUD: cognitive behavior therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, and twelve-step facilitation. Participants were included if they sought outpatient treatment from the New Mexico site (n=146). Participants were excluded if they did not complete both the 3-year and 10-year follow up procedures. Measured outcomes included quantity and frequency of alcohol use, depressive symptoms, overall satisfaction in life, and anger in situational contexts.

After performing latent profile analyses, the researchers found 4 profiles of drinkers, which differed in level of functioning and frequency of drinking. Interestingly, profile 4 (high functioning, infrequency nonheavy drinking) had good psychological functioning outcomes 10 years after treatment, suggesting that non-abstinent recovery is possible. The results of this study should be taken into consideration given the studies limitations, including its reliance on one particular site (New Mexico). In addition, recovery is a longitudinal process, so only looking at data from the 10-year mark may not have accurately represented the entire recovery process of participants. Nonetheless, this study furthered our understanding of what successful non-abstinent recovery could look like.

Click to read the study in Journal of Addiction Medicine

Image: PD 

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