Abstinence or Controlled Drinking Goals for Problem Drinkers: A Randomized Clinical Trial

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Twenty-four problem drinkers were randomly assigned to brief (six-session) behavioral treatment with either an abstinence (AB) or a controlled drinking (CD) goal. Self-report and collateral report data reflected significant overall reduction in alcohol consumption and projected blood alcohol peaks at 3-month and at 3.5-year follow-up intervals. AB and CD groups did not differ significantly from each other on outcome variables at any point before or after treatment, but our small sample size precludes a confident interpretation of this finding. At 3.5 years, 4 clients had been abstinent for at least 12 months, 3 had been moderate and asymptomatic drinkers for at least 12 months, 5 were improved but still somewhat impaired, 8 were unimproved, 3 refused to be interviewed, and 1 could not be located. Accuracy of self-reports was unaffected by informing clients of collateral interview procedures before versus after obtaining self-report of alcohol consumption.

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