Continuum Beliefs are Associated with Higher Problem Recognition than Binary Beliefs among Harmful Drinkers without Addiction Experience
- Beliefs about alcohol problems and addiction can have implications for recovery.
- High-risk alcohol users have low problem recognition, a barrier to behaviour change.
- The study found that continuum beliefs about alcohol problems promote problem recognition.
- Stigma, othering and available problem frames may be explanatory mechanisms.
Low problem recognition may be an important barrier to opportunities for self-change or help-seeking in high-risk alcohol users. Little is known about how the beliefs high-risk alcohol users hold about the nature and causes of alcohol problems affect problem recognition and subsequent behaviour change processes.
Participants (n = 597) recruited online were randomised to one of two conditions designed to promote beliefs according to (a) a continuum model of alcohol problems or (b) a binary disease model, or (c) a control condition. Participants completed measures of alcohol problem beliefs, problem recognition and other indices including the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT), addiction beliefs, addiction experience and demographics.
Results showed that high-risk alcohol users without addiction experience exposed to the continuum condition had significantly higher problem recognition than those in binary disease model or control conditions. Continuum beliefs appear to offer self-evaluative benefits for high-risk alcohol users with low alcohol problem recognition, thus potentially facilitating help-seeking or self-change regarding alcohol use.
Further research to understand the mechanisms by which continuum beliefs may promote more accurate alcohol use self-evaluation and its potential for behaviour change is warranted. The role of continuum beliefs may have important consequences for alcohol-related messaging and interventions seeking to promote self-change or help-seeking.