Aim A 3-year update with 59 new controlled trials is provided for the ongoing Mesa Grande project reviewing clinical trials of treatments for alcohol use disorders. The project summarizes the current evidence for various treatment approaches, weighting findings differentially according to the methodological strength of each study.
Design The review includes 361 controlled studies that (1) evaluated at least one treatment for alcohol use disorders, (2) compared it with an alternative condition (such as a control group, a placebo, a brief intervention or an alternative treatment), (3) used a procedure designed to create equivalent groups before treatment and (4) reported at least one outcome measure of drinking or alcohol-related consequences. Studies were rated by two reviewers on 12 methodological criteria, and outcome logic was analyzed for the specific treatment modalities tested.
Findings Methodological quality of studies was significantly but modestly correlated with the reporting of a specific effect of treatment. Among psychosocial treatments, strongest evidence of efficacy was found for brief interventions, social skills training, the community reinforcement approach, behavior contracting, behavioral marital therapy and case management. For the first time, two pharmacotherapies also appeared among the most strongly supported approaches: opiate antagonists (naltrexone, nalmefene) and acamprosate. Least supported were methods designed to educate, confront, shock or foster insight regarding the nature and causes of alcoholism.
Conclusions Treatment methods differ substantially in apparent efficacy. It would be sensible to consider these differences in designing and funding treatment programs.