Alcohol use trajectories among Non-treatment-seeking heavy drinkers

Katie Witkiewitz, Ronda L. Dearing, Stephen A. Maisto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objective: Heavy drinking, often defined as more than five drinks per occasion, is a major public health problem worldwide, yet most individuals who drink heavily never receive reatment. Focusing on those who receive treatment, numerous studies have found that alcohol use following treatment is discontinuous, with periods of abstinence alternating with periods of heavy drinking. In contrast, little is known about changes in alcohol use among the majority of individuals who engage in heavy drinking and never receive treatment. The goal of this study was to examine changes in alcohol consumption (proportion of heavy drinking days) in a sample of non-treatment-seeking heavy drinkers (n = 151). Method: The current study focused on three quantitative models-latent growth curve, latent growth mixture, and latent Markov models-to examine changes in the frequency of heavy drinking days (i.e., <5/4 drinks per day for men/women) among a sample of heavy drinkers who did not receive any form of treatment or self-help over a 2-year period. Results: Participants signifi cantly reduced their frequency of heavy drinking over a 2-year period, and changes in drinking did not show the discontinuity in trajectories often observed in treatment samples. Alcohol use disorder diagnosis predicted higher initial levels of frequent heavy drinking but did not predict changes in the frequency of heavy drinking over time. Conclusions: Most individuals, with or without an alcohol use disorder, reported signifi cant reductions in heavy drinking frequency over time. These results have important implications for a public health approach to the problem of heavy drinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-422
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of studies on alcohol and drugs
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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