Patient predictors of alcohol treatment outcome: A systematic review

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Aim: To investigate predictors of alcohol use disorder treatment outcome

Methods: A literature search for patient characteristics as predictors of alcohol use disorder treatment outcome yielded 63 published papers describing findings from 51 unique treatment outcome studies, with 31 variables reported in four or more studies. Variables were examined on three levels, identifying whether or not variables were significant predictors of drinking-related outcome in univariate analysis, multivariate analysis, and in multivariate analyses limited to studies including several “key predictors”. Also, a model was developed in order to predict total percentage of variance in treatment outcome accounted for in each study using each of the key predictors and a range of methodological factors.

Results: The most consistent predictors overall were dependence severity, psychopathology ratings, alcohol-related self-efficacy, motivation, and treatment goal. The two predictor variables most associated with greater variance accounted for in predictive models, when controlling for broader methodological variables, were baseline alcohol consumption and dependence severity.

Conclusions: Few predictor variables were examined in more than a third of studies reviewed and few variables were found to be significant predictors in a clear majority of studies. However a subset of variables was identified which collectively could be considered to represent a consistent set of predictors. Too few studies controlled for other important predictor variables. Attempts to synthesise findings were often hampered by lack of agreement of the best measure for predictor variables.


J Douglas Sellman, PhD, FRANZCP; Chris M A Frampton, PhD


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Dr Simon Adamson