More difficult to achieve controlled alcohol use than to live alcohol-free completely
People who are seeking treatment for alcohol use disorders and whose goal is to quit alcohol use entirely are more likely to achieve this goal if they are treated by a care provider who advocates total abstinence.
Those who wish to learn to consume alcohol in a controlled manner are not as successful, even when they are treated by a care provider who works with controlled consumption. These are the results of a study carried out at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Alcohol-free or “moderate” use?
The debate about whether or not abstinence or “moderate” alcohol use should be the goal of treatment and rehabilitation programs is on-going. In this context, this new study sheds light on some of the evidence.
Previous studies have shown that the crucial factor in treatment success is that patients and care providers have the same view, and that the choice of treatment method plays a subordinate role. But how great an influence choice of method has on the final treatment outcome has not been studied previously.
The study – entitled “Is There a Need for Congruent Treatment Goals Between Alcohol-Dependent Patients and Caregivers?” – followed up 201 adult patients 2.5 years after treatment onset. It showed that a shared view between patient and care provider was not decisive for the treatment outcome.
The study concludes: The major finding was that there appeared to be no association between congruence itself and treatment outcome. On the other hand, we found that the treatment outcome was more successful if the patient as well as the treatment setting had abstinence as a goal (i.e., congruent goals of abstinence).
- Around 90% of patients who were in agreement with their care provider on total abstinence were still sober at the follow-up
- In comparison only 50% of patients who were in agreement with their care provider on controlled consumption treatment had succeeded in controlling their alcohol use at follow-up.
According to Associate Professor Kristina Berglund:
Our study shows that, regardless of agreement on goals and methods, in the end it is more difficult to stick to controlled [alcohol use] than to give it up entirely.”
The study findings are relevant to the current debate on total abstinence vs. safe, controlled alcohol consumption as treatment goals in cases of alcohol dependence.
Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2016 Apr;40(4):874-9. doi: 10.1111/acer.13003. Epub 2016 Mar 12. Is There a Need for Congruent Treatment Goals Between Alcohol-Dependent Patients and Caregivers? Berglund KJ, Svensson I, Berggren U, Balldin J, Fahlke C.