Accounting for Self-Selected Drinking Goals in the Assessment of Treatment Outcome

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Many treatment outcome studies are abstinence-based and rely on achieved abstinence as an indicator of success, making the implicit assumption that participants have an abstinence goal. However, it is often the case that participants self-select controlled drinking goals, even in the context of an abstinence-based treatment. The current study explored the use of an outcome variable, percent weeks meeting goal (PWMG), which takes into account individual goal choice at baseline. The sample consisted of 57 women who participated in a cognitive-behavioral therapy treatment for alcohol dependence and were followed for 18 months after baseline. Twenty-two (39%) women self-selected controlled drinking goals, and 35 (61%) self-selected an abstinence goal at baseline. A repeated measures analysis of variance with PWMG as the dependent variable revealed that both goal groups were equally successful in meeting their goals during the 6-month treatment period. After treatment, participants with a goal of abstinence had more PWMG than did participants with a self-selected controlled drinking goal, but the difference was significant at a trend level. The two goal groups did not differ in outcome when the authors compared them using more traditional measures of outcome, percent days abstinent and percent heavy drinking days.

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