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Drinking in the Year After Treatment as a Predictor of Three-Year Drinking Outcomes
Stephen A. Maisto, Patrick R. Clifford, Robert L. Stout, Christine M. Davis
Objective: Previous research suggests that abstinence from alcohol during the first year posttreatment for alcohol-use disorders (AUDs) is an important, independent predictor of longer-term alcohol consumption and related functioning. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that abstinence during the first year posttreatment initiation predicts alcohol use at Months 37-39. A second aim of this study was to explore the relationship between “moderate” drinking in the first year and drinking at Months 37-39. Method: Secondary data analyses were conducted on the outpatient Project MATCH (Matching Alcoholism Treatments to Client Heterogeneity) sample (N = 952 at baseline and 802 at Months 37-39). For these analyses, participants were classified first as abstainers, moderate drinkers, or heavy drinkers based on their alcohol use in the first year posttreatment initiation. Results: Analyses of covariance showed that the first-year drinker classification predicted both percentage of days abstinent and drinks per drinking day at Months 37-39. Subsequent analyses showed that the abstainers functioned significantly better than (1) both of the other drinker groups combined and (2) either of the other two groups, which did not differ from each other on either measure of alcohol use. A third set of exploratory analyses evaluated first-year abstinence and heavy drinking as continuous variables and showed an essentially linear relationship between them and drinking at 3 years. Conclusions: This study confirmed the strong relationship between first-year abstinence and later drinking but did not show that participants who engaged in moderate drinking during the first year had positive alcohol-use outcomes at 3 years. The clinical implications of the findings, their generalizability to different populations of individuals presenting for specialty alcohol treatment, and future research directions are discussed. (J. Stud. Alcohol 67: 823-832, 2006)