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J Consult Clin Psychol. 2015 Dec;83(6):1021-32. doi: 10.1037/a0039534. Epub 2015 Jul 27.

Effect of patient choice in an adaptive sequential randomization trial of treatment for alcohol and cocaine dependence.

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Department of Psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine, Center on the Continuum of Care in the Addictions, University of Pennsylvania.
Crescenz Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Treatment Research Institute.



To evaluate the effect of providing choice of treatment alternatives to patients who fail to engage in or drop out of intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) for substance dependence.


Alcohol- and/or cocaine-dependent patients (N = 500) participated in a sequential, multiple-assignment, randomized trial (SMART). Those who failed to engage in an IOP at Week 2 (N = 189) or who dropped out after engagement (N = 84) were randomized for motivational-interviewing (MI) telephone calls that focused on engagement in an IOP (MI-IOP) or provided a choice of IOP type or 3 treatment options (MI-PC, or patient choice). Those not engaged at both 2 and 8 weeks (N = 102) were re-randomized either to MI-PC or no further outreach. Outcomes were treatment attendance and measures of alcohol and cocaine use obtained at 1, 2, 3, and 6 months.


MI-PC produced better attendance than comparison conditions in patients who dropped out after initial engagement and in those re-randomized at 8 weeks. However, contrary to study hypotheses, MI-IOP produced significantly better alcohol-use outcomes than MI-PC in alcohol-dependent patients not engaged at Week 2. There were no other significant differences between treatment conditions on other main-effect analyses with alcohol- or cocaine-outcome measures.


Providing treatment options via telephone calls to patients who failed to engage in IOP did not produce better substance-use outcomes than outreach calls focused on engagement in IOP. Future researchers should investigate the potential benefits of choice at other points in treatment (e.g., at intake) as well as choice of other combinations of treatments.

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