Trajectories of alcohol use over time among adults with alcohol dependence

James A. Cranford, Amy R. Krentzman, Orion Mowbray, Elizabeth A.R. Robinson

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19 Scopus citations


This study sought to identify trajectories of drinking behavior change over time in a sample of adults with current alcohol use disorder (AUD). We conducted secondary analyses of seven waves of data from a prospective longitudinal study of 364 adults (mean age=44.0. years, SD=12.8. years) who met criteria for DSM-IV alcohol dependence (AD), 74.4% of whom were entering alcohol treatment. Participants were followed for 2 1/2 to 3. years with in-person interviews every 6. months. Results from latent class growth analyses of drinks per drinking day over 3. years indicated five trajectory classes: 1) Moderate Baseline. →. Slow Decli 2) Heavy Baseline. →. Stable Abstinent; 3) Heavy Baseline. →. Slow Decli 4) Heaviest Baseline. →. Steep Decline, and 5) Heaviest Baseline. →. Stable Heavy. Findings are consistent with previous research and suggest that these trajectory classes might represent longitudinal phenotypes of alcohol involvement across diverse samples. Treatment modality, Alcoholics Anonymous involvement, and purpose in life were associated with diverse trajectories of drinking behavior among adults with AD. AA involvement was associated with higher odds of membership in trajectory classes that showed declines in drinking from baseline, and having higher purpose in life predicted lower odds of membership in the Heaviest Baseline. →. Stable Heavy class. AA involvement predicts different pathways of recovery characterized by stable abstinence, steep declines, and/or slower declines in drinking over time. Higher purpose in life may protect against chronic heavy drinking by strengthening motivations to pursue goals that are unrelated to substance use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1006-1011
Number of pages6
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grants R01 AA014442 and R21 AA019723 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism , National Institutes of Health and grant UL1RR024986 from the National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health . Portions of this research were presented at the annual meetings of the Research Society on Alcoholism in Atlanta, GA and San Francisco, CA in June, 2011 and June, 2012, respectively.


  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Drinking behavior change
  • Purpose in life
  • Recovery from alcohol dependence


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