Reductions in Drinking Predict Increased Distress: Between- and Within-Person Associations between Alcohol Use and Psychological Distress During and Following Treatment

Jacob A. Levine, Becky K. Gius, George Boghdadi, Gerard J. Connors, Stephen A. Maisto, Robert C. Schlauch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: As the nature of the association between alcohol use disorder (AUD) and other disorders is not well understood, the ways in which psychological distress changes during the course of treatment for AUD are relatively unknown. Existing literatures posit 2 competing hypotheses such that treatment for AUD concurrently decreases alcohol use and psychological distress or treatment for AUD decreases alcohol use and increases psychological distress. The current study examined the ways in which psychological distress changed as a function of treatment for AUD, including the relationship between psychological distress and drinking behaviors. Methods: Secondary data analysis was conducted on an existing clinical trial dataset that investigated the effect of cognitive–behavioral therapy and therapeutic alliance feedback on AUDs. Specifically, data collected at baseline, posttreatment, 3-month, 6-month, 9-month, and 12-month follow-up assessments were examined. Results: Results indicated decreases in heavy drinking days, increases in percentage of days abstinent, and decreases in overall psychological distress. Findings also revealed that changes in psychological distress did not predict changes in drinking at the next time interval; however, decreases in drinking predicted higher psychological distress at the next assessment. Further, average levels of psychological distress were positively associated with rates of drinking. Conclusions: The current study provides some insight into how psychological distress changes during the course of treatment for AUD, including the relationship between changes in drinking and such symptoms. Future research should continue to explore these relationships, including the ways in which treatment efforts can address what may be seen as paradoxical effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2326-2335
Number of pages10
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Volume44
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Alcohol Use Disorder
  • Psychological Distress
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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