Predicting Successful Treatment Outcome of Web-Based Self-help for Problem Drinkers: Secondary Analysis From a Randomized Controlled Trial.

H. Riper, J. Kramer, M. Keuken, H.F.E. Smit, G. Schippers, P. Cuijpers

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Background: Web-based self-help interventions for problem drinking are coming of age. They have shown promising results in terms of cost-effectiveness, and they offer opportunities to reach out on a broad scale to problem drinkers. The question now is whether certain groups of problem drinkers benefit more from such Web-based interventions than others.
Objective: We sought to identify baseline, client-related predictors of the effectiveness of Drinking Less, a 24/7, free-access, interactive, Web-based self-help intervention without therapist guidance for problem drinkers who want to reduce their alcohol consumption. The intervention is based on cognitive-behavioral and self-control principles.
Methods: We conducted secondary analysis of data from a pragmatic randomized trial with follow-up at 6 and 12 months. Participants (N = 261) were adult problem drinkers in the Dutch general population with a weekly alcohol consumption above 210 g of ethanol for men or 140 g for women, or consumption of at least 60 g (men) or 40 g (women) one or more days a week over the past 3 months. Six baseline participant characteristics were designated as putative predictors of treatment response: (1) gender, (2) education, (3) Internet use competence (sociodemographics), (4) mean weekly alcohol consumption, (5) prior professional help for alcohol problems (level of problem drinking), and (6) participants’ expectancies of Web-based interventions for problem drinking. Intention-to-treat (ITT) analyses, using last-observation-carried-forward (LOCF) data, and regression imputation (RI) were performed to deal with loss to follow-up. Statistical tests for interaction terms were conducted and linear regression analysis was performed to investigate whether the participants’ characteristics as measured at baseline predicted positive treatment responses at 6- and 12-month follow-ups.
Results: At 6 months, prior help for alcohol problems predicted a small, marginally significant positive treatment outcome in the RI model only (beta = .18, P = .05, R2 = .11). At 12 months, females displayed modest predictive power in both imputation models (LOCF: beta = .22, P = .045, R2 = .02; regression: beta = .27, P = .01, R2 = .03). Those with higher levels of education exhibited modest predictive power in the LOCF model only (beta = .33, P = .01, R2 = .03).
Conclusions: Although female and more highly educated users appeared slightly more likely to derive benefit from the Drinking Less intervention, none of the baseline characteristics we studied persuasively predicted a favorable treatment outcome. The Web-based intervention therefore seems well suited for a heterogeneous group of problem drinkers and could hence be offered as a first-step treatment in a stepped-care approach directed at problem drinkers in the general population.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere46
Pages (from-to)e46; 1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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