Behavioral Economic Predictors of Brief Alcohol Intervention Outcomes

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Abstract

Objective: The present study attempted to determine whether behavioral economic indices of elevated alcohol reward value, measured before and immediately after a brief alcohol intervention, predict treatment response. Method: Participants were 133 heavy drinking college students (49.6% female, 51.4% male; 64.3% Caucasian, 29.5% African American) who were randomized to 1 of 3 conditions: motivational interviewing plus personalized feedback (brief motivational interventions; BMI), computerized personalized feedback intervention (electronic check-up to go; e-CHUG), and assessment only. Results: Baseline level of alcohol demand intensity (maximum consumption) significantly predicted drinks per week and alcohol problems at 1-month follow-up and baseline relative discretionary expenditures on alcohol significantly predicted drinks per week and alcohol problems at 6-month follow-up. BMI and e-CHUG were associated with an immediate postsession reduction in alcohol demand (p < .001, ηp2 = .29) that persisted at the 1-month follow-up, with greater postsession reductions in the BMI condition (p = .02, ηp2 = .06). Reductions in demand intensity and Omax (maximum expenditure) immediately postintervention significantly predicted drinking reductions at 1-month follow up (p = .04, ΔR2 = .02, and p = .01, ΔR2 = .03, respectively). Reductions in relative discretionary expenditures on alcohol at 1-month significantly predicted drinking (p = .002, ΔR2 = .06,) and alcohol problem (p < .001, ΔR2 = .13) reductions at the 6-month follow-up. Conclusions: These results suggest that behavioral economic reward value indices may function as risk factors for poor intervention response and as clinically relevant markers of change in heavy drinkers.

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