Characteristics of first-time alcohol treatment seekers: The COMBINE study

Joseph S. LoCastro, Jennifer Sharpe Potter, Dennis M. Donovan, David Couper, Kimberly W. Pope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective: The current study compared alcoholics who entered treatment for the first time with those who had reported one or more prior treatment experiences using a large sample (N = 1,362) of alcoholics who entered the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism-sponsored COMBINE (Combining Medications and Behavioral Interventions) Study of pharmacological and behavioral treatment efficacy. Method: Participants were categorized into three prior-treatment groups: (1) treatment naive (n = 691, 50.73%), (2) one to two prior treatments (n = 380, 27.90%), or (3) three or more prior treatments (n = 291, 21.37%). Groups were compared at baseline on multiple drinking and psychosocial variables. Results: The treatment-naive group was more likely to be female, educated, married, and employed. They reported the lowest levels of drinks per drinking day, average drinks per day, alcohol dependence, craving, and alcohol-related consequences; but, they had the oldest age at onset of alcohol problems. Both the treatment-naive group and the one-to-two prior-treatment group had lower percentage days abstinent within the prior 30 days, compared with the three-or-more group (22% and 25% vs 32%, respectively). The treatment-naive group reported the least commitment to an abstinence goal (43% vs 70% and 80%, respectively) and the lowest mean number of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings attended (0.86 vs 3.10 vs 6.91, respectively). They also reported fewer psychological symptoms, less distress, and higher levels of quality of life on physical, emotional, and environmental domains, as well as social relationships. Conclusions: Results suggest that a greater understanding of treatment-naive versus treatment-experienced clients may provide a better profile of help-seeking behavior and may suggest different approaches to treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)885-895
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Toxicology


Dive into the research topics of 'Characteristics of first-time alcohol treatment seekers: The COMBINE study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this