Abstinence and low risk drinking during treatment: Association with psychosocial functioning, alcohol use, and alcohol problems 3 years following treatment

Katie Witkiewitz, Megan Kirouac, Corey R. Roos, Adam D. Wilson, Kevin A. Hallgren, Adrian J. Bravo, Kevin S. Montes, Stephen A Maisto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Abstinence from alcohol is often considered a critical element of recovery from alcohol use disorder. Yet, low risk drinking may be more desirable for some patients. There is mixed literature on whether low risk drinking is achievable and stable. Low risk drinking outcomes during treatment and outcomes 3 years after treatment were examined using data from the outpatient arm in Project MATCH (n = 877). Drinking outcomes were defined by repeated measures latent class analysis of weekly abstinence, low risk drinking days ( < 4/5 drinks for women/men), and heavy drinking days (≥4/5 drinks for women/men) during 12 weeks of treatment. Functioning outcome measures included psychosocial functioning, alcohol use, and alcohol-related consequences. Mixture modeling was used to examine the association between drinking classes and functioning outcomes. We identified 7 classes based on drinking during treatment: persistent heavy drinking, abstinence to heavy drinking, abstinence and heavy drinking, heavy drinking to mostly abstinent, low risk and heavy drinking, abstinence and low risk drinking, and abstinence. As compared with heavier drinkers, individuals who achieved mostly abstinence or low risk drinking, even with some heavy drinking episodes during treatment, had significant improvements in alcohol use, alcoholrelated consequences, and psychosocial functioning 3 years after treatment. Those who were mostly abstinent or engaged in low risk drinking during treatment did not differ on any outcomes at 3 years after treatment. Findings indicate that low risk drinking is achievable for some individuals during treatment and that improvement in functioning among low risk drinkers can be observed at 3 years after treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-646
Number of pages8
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018



  • Alcohol treatment
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Low risk drinking
  • Mixture models
  • Recovery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this