Aims To determine whether substance use severity, psychiatric severity, social support, self-help attendance or motivation moderated substance use outcomes in a telephone-based continuing care intervention.
Design A randomized study comparing three 12-week continuing care interventions: weekly telephone monitoring and counseling combined with a support group in the first 4 weeks (TEL), twice-weekly individualized relapse prevention (RP) and twice-weekly standard group counseling (STND).
Methods Following completion of 4-week intensive out-patient programs (IOP), 359 patients with alcohol and/or cocaine dependence were assigned randomly to a continuing care condition and followed quarterly for 12 months. Ten potential moderator variables were examined in separate analyses. Two of these variables reflected pretreatment status, whereas the other variables were focused on performance while in the IOP. A composite risk measure was also constructed from dichotomized versions of seven of these variables, with higher scores indicating greater potential for relapse. The dependent measures were total abstinence and percentage of days abstinent from alcohol and cocaine in each quarter.
Findings Of 40 interaction contrasts that were examined with individual risk indicator measures, only one reached the 0.05 level of significance. Patients with any alcohol use in IOP had a higher percentage of days abstinence in STND than in TEL. In addition, high scores on the composite risk indicator predicted higher total abstinence rates in STND than in TEL, whereas low to moderate scores predicted higher abstinence rates in TEL than in STND.
Conclusion For most graduates of IOPs, the combination of brief weekly telephone therapeutic contacts and a support group in the first month produced outcomes that are as good as those obtained in more intensive face-to-face continuing care interventions. However, patients with current dependence on both alcohol and cocaine who make little progress towards achieving the central goals of IOP may have better outcomes if they receive twice-weekly group counseling following IOP.