What works? A summary of alcohol treatment research

The following is a copy of a table from Chapter 2, "What works? A summary of alcohol treatment research" in R. K. Hester & W.R. Miller (Eds.), Handbook of alcoholism treatment approaches: Effective alternatives (3rd ed.), 2003, Allyn & Bacon. To order this book, click here. Information on what each column means is at the bottom of the page.

Treatment Modality Rank order Cumulative Evidence Score Number of studies %+ Mean Methodological Quotient Score Mean Severity of Treatment Population % Excellent
Brief interventions 1 390 34 74 13.29 2.47 53
Motivational enhancement 2 189 18 72 12.83 2.72 50
GABA agonist (Acamprosate) 3 116 5 100 11.60 3.80 20
Community Reinforcement 4.5 110 7 86 14.00 3.43 71
Self-change manual (Bibliotherapy) 4.5 110 17 59 12.65 2.59 53
Opiate antagonist (Naltrexone) 6 100 6 83 11.33 3.17 0
Behavioral self-control training 7 85 31 52 12.77 2.91 52
Behavior contracting 8 64 5 80 10.40 3.60 0
Social skills training 9 57 20 55 10.9 3.80 25
Marital therapy-Behavioral 10 44 9 56 12.33 3.44 44
Aversion therapy-Nausea 11 36 6 50 10.50 3.83 17
Case management 12 33 5 80 10.50 3.75 0
Cognitive Therapy 13 21 10 40 10.00 3.70 10
Aversion Therapy, Covert Sensitization 14.5 18 8 38 10.88 3.50 0
Aversion therapy, Apneic 14.5 18 3 67 9.67 3.33 0
Family therapy 16 15 4 50 9.25 3.25 0
Acupuncture 17 14 3 67 9.67 3.67 0
Client-centered Counseling 18 5 8 50 11.13 3.38 13
Aversion therapy, Electrical 19 -1 18 44 11.06 3.78 17
Exercise 20 -3 3 33 11.00 2.00 0
Stress Management 21 -4 3 33 10.33 2.67 0
Antidipsotropic-Disulfiram 22 -6 27 44 11.07 3.69 26
Antidepressant-SSRI 23 -16 15 53 8.60 2.67 0
Problem Solving 24 -26 4 25 12.25 3.75 50
Lithium 25 -32 7 43 11.43 3.71 29
Marital therapy-Nonbehavioral 26 -33 8 38 12.25 3.63 25
Group process psychotherapy 27 -34 3 0 8.00 2.67 0
Functional analysis 28 -36 3 0 12.00 2.67 33
Relapse prevention 29 -38 22 36 11.73 3.23 31
Self-monitoring 30 -39 6 33 12.00 3.17 50
Hypnosis 31 -41 4 0 10.25 3.75 0
Psychedelic medication 32 -44 8 25 10.13 3.63 0
Antidipsotropic-calcium carbimide 33 -52 3 0 10.00 4.00 0
Attention Placebo 34 -59 3 0 12.33 3.33 33
Serotonin agonist 35 -68 3 0 11.33 2.33 0
Treatment as usual 36 -78 15 27 9.07 3.07 13
Twelve-step facilitation 37 -82 6 17 15.00 3.67 83
Alcoholics anonymous 38 -94 7 14 10.71 3.14 29
Anxiolytic medication 39 -98 15 27 8.13 3.40 0
Milieu therapy 40 -102 14 21 10.86 3.64 29
Antidipsotropic-metronidazole 41 -103 11 9 9.73 3.73 0
Antidepressant medication (non-SSRI) 42 -104 6 0 8.67 3.17 0
Videotape self-confrontation 43 -108 8 0 10.50 3.34 13
Relaxation training 44 -152 18 17 10/56 3.06 17
Confrontational Counseling 45 -183 12 0 10.25 3.00 33
Psychotherapy 46 -207 19 16 10.89 3.26 21
General alcoholism counseling 47 -284 23 9 11.26 3.22 22
Education (tapes, lectures, or films) 48 -443 39 13 9.77 2.44 1.5
  • Cumulative Evidence Score (CES). For each study, the Methodological Quality Score is multiplied by the Outcome Logic Score (not shown). Then they added up all these scores for a particular modality. So the CES is a function of the number of studies, the scientific rigor of each study, and the outcomes for a treatment within each study.
  • Mean Methodological Quotient Score. This is the average score of the scientific rigor of each study in a particular modality. Scores can range from 0 to 17.
  • Mean Severity of Treatment Population. This reflects the average of how severely dependent the population studied was. Scores range from 1 (less severe alcohol related problems and dependence) to 4 (severe alcohol dependence).
  • % Excellent This is the percent of studies in each treatment category that had high Methodological Quotient Scores (>13 on scale of 1-17).

Copyright 2003. Reprinted with permission from Allyn & Bacon.

Last revised April 4, 2013.