Effectiveness of a Stand-alone Telephone-Delivered Intervention for Reducing Problem Alcohol Use: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Dan I. Lubman, Jasmin Grigg, John Reynolds, Kate Hall, Amanda L. Baker, Petra K. Staiger, Jonathan Tyler, Isabelle Volpe, Peta Stragalinos, Anthony Harris, David Best, Victoria Manning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Importance: Despite the magnitude of alcohol use problems globally, treatment uptake remains low. Telephone-delivered interventions have potential to overcome many structural and individual barriers to help seeking, yet their effectiveness as a stand-alone treatment for problem alcohol use has not been established. Objective: To examine the effectiveness of the Ready2Change telephone-delivered intervention in reducing alcohol problem severity up to 3 months among a general population sample. Design, Setting, and Participants: This double-blind, randomized clinical trial recruited participants with an Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) score of greater than 6 (for female participants) and 7 (for male participants) from across Australia during the period of May 25, 2018, to October 2, 2019. Telephone assessments occurred at baseline and 3 months after baseline (84.9% retention). Data collection was finalized September 2020. Interventions: The telephone-based cognitive and behavioral intervention comprised 4 to 6 telephone sessions with a psychologist. The active control condition comprised four 5-minute telephone check-ins from a researcher and alcohol and stress management pamphlets. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome was change in alcohol problem severity, measured with the AUDIT total score. Drinking patterns were measured with the Timeline Followback (TLFB) instrument. Results: This study included a total of 344 participants (mean [SD] age, 39.9 [11.4] years; range, 18-73 years; 177 male participants [51.5%]); 173 participants (50.3%) composed the intervention group, and 171 participants (49.7%) composed the active control group. Less than one-third of participants (101 [29.4%]) had previously sought alcohol treatment, despite a high mean (SD) baseline AUDIT score of 21.5 (6.3) and 218 (63.4%) scoring in the probable dependence range. For the primary intention-to-treat analyses, there was a significant decrease in AUDIT total score from baseline to 3 months in both groups (intervention group decrease, 8.22; 95% CI, 7.11-9.32; P <.001; control group decrease, 7.13; 95% CI, 6.10-8.17; P <.001), but change over time was not different between groups (difference, 1.08; 95% CI, -0.43 to 2.59; P =.16). In secondary analyses, the intervention group showed a significantly greater reduction in the AUDIT hazardous use domain relative to the control group at 3 months (difference, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.02-1.14; P =.04). A greater reduction in AUDIT total score was observed for the intervention group relative to the control group when adjusting for exposure to 2 or more sessions (difference, 3.40; 95% CI, 0.36-6.44; P =.03) but not 1 or more sessions (per-protocol analysis). Conclusions and Relevance: Based on the primary outcome, AUDIT total score, this randomized clinical trial did not find superior effectiveness of this telephone-based cognitive and behavioral intervention compared with active control. However, the intervention was effective in reducing hazardous alcohol use and reduced alcohol problem severity when 2 or more sessions were delivered. Trial outcomes demonstrate the potential benefits of this highly scalable and accessible model of alcohol treatment. 2022 American Medical Association. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055-1064
Number of pages10
JournalJAMA Psychiatry
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2022

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