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J Stud Alcohol. 1998 Sep;59(5):591-8.

Twelve-month abstinence from alcohol and long-term drinking and marital outcomes in men with severe alcohol problems.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Syracuse University, New York 13244, USA.



Clinical and research data suggest that drinking behavior during the first year following treatment for alcohol problems may predict longer term drinking and functioning in other areas. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between abstinence from alcohol during the first year following group behavioral marital therapy (BMT) for alcohol problems and drinking and marital functioning through 30 months post-group BMT.


The subjects were 73 white male veterans with severe alcohol problems who participated in a clinical trial of group BMT and individual BMT aftercare. All subjects who entered the clinical trial were classified as either abstinent from alcohol for the full first 12 months following completion of group BMT, or not. Following completion of group BMT, subjects were reevaluated on drinking, marital functioning and related behaviors at 3, 6, 12, 18, 24 and 30 months later.


Outcome analyses, taking into account baseline differences between drinker groups on age, marital functioning and number of days light drinking, showed better alcohol use (18, 24 and 30 months) and marital functioning (6, 12, 18, 24 and 30 months) for the first-year abstainers. Furthermore, fewer first-year abstainers than drinkers reported they were hospitalized for alcohol-related reasons at the 18-, 24- and 30-month follow-ups, and the abstainers showed a greater degree of self-efficacy not to drink heavily at each of the 6-, 18- and 30-month follow-ups.


The data are consistent with the literature in showing the prognostic value of first-year post-alcohol treatment abstinence for drinking and functioning in other life areas in the longer term. The findings suggest that at least shorter term abstinence should be considered as an outcome goal for individuals who present to alcohol treatment settings.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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