Does Change in Self-Perceived Problem Drinker Identity Relate to Change in Alcohol Use? An Examination of Nontreatment Seeking Hazardous Drinkers

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Abstract

Identity change is related to reductions in alcohol use among treatment seekers, but it is unclear the extent to which identity change is associated with reductions in alcohol use among nontreatment seeking hazardous drinkers. The goal of the current study was to examine whether change in problem drinker identity (i.e., self-reported identification as a problem or nonproblem drinker) was associated with reductions in heavy drinking among nontreatment seeking hazardous drinkers. Participants (n = 149) completed measures to assess alcohol use and were asked if they identified as a problem drinker at baseline and at 6-, 12-, 18-, and 24-month follow-ups. Two groups were compared: (a) those who identified as a problem drinker at baseline but identified as a nonproblem drinker at 12 months and (b) those who did not make the same transition. Latent mixture modeling was conducted to examine whether change in problem drinker identity was predictive of heavy drinking latent class growth trajectories. The results indicated that a self-reported transition from identification as a problem drinker to identification as a nonproblem drinker was associated with greater reductions in heavy drinking over the assessment period and a 7 times greater likelihood of being in a rapidly decreasing heavy drinking latent trajectory class compared with participants who did not make the same transition. Self-reported transitions in identity appear to be a good predictor of heavy drinking trajectories among nontreatment seekers. A better understanding of what predicts transitions in drinking identity among non-treatment and treatment seekers is needed.

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