Prospective Analysis of Behavioral Economic Predictors of Stable Moderation Drinking Among Problem Drinkers Attempting Natural Recovery

Academic Article


  • Background: As interventions have expanded beyond clinical treatment to include brief interventions for persons with less severe alcohol problems, predicting who can achieve stable moderation drinking has gained importance. Recent behavioral economic (BE) research on natural recovery has shown that active problem drinkers who allocate their monetary expenditures on alcohol and saving for the future over longer time horizons tend to have better subsequent recovery outcomes, including maintenance of stable moderation drinking. This study compared the predictive utility of this money-based “Alcohol-Savings Discretionary Expenditure” (ASDE) index with multiple BE analogue measures of behavioral impulsivity and self-control, which have seldom been investigated together, to predict outcomes of natural recovery attempts. Methods: Community-dwelling problem drinkers, enrolled shortly after stopping abusive drinking without treatment, were followed prospectively for up to a year (N = 175 [75.4% male], M age = 50.65 years). They completed baseline assessments of preresolution drinking practices and problems, analogue behavioral choice tasks (Delay Discounting, Melioration-Maximization, and Alcohol Purchase Tasks), and a Timeline Followback interview including expenditures on alcohol compared to voluntary savings (ASDE index) during the preresolution year. Results: Multinomial logistic regression models showed that, among the BE measures, only the ASDE index predicted stable moderation drinking compared to stable abstinence or unstable resolutions involving relapse. As hypothesized, stable moderation was associated with more balanced preresolution allocations to drinking and savings (odds ratio = 1.77, 95% confidence interval = 1.02 to 3.08, p < 0.05), suggesting it is associated with longer-term behavior regulation processes than abstinence. Conclusions: The ASDE's unique predictive utility may rest on its comprehensive representation of contextual elements to support this patterning of behavioral allocation. Stable low-risk drinking, but not abstinence, requires such regulatory processes.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Tucker JA; Cheong JW; Chandler SD; Lambert BH; Pietrzak B; Kwok H; Davies SL
  • Start Page

  • 2676
  • End Page

  • 2684
  • Volume

  • 40
  • Issue

  • 12