Alcohol Craving as a Predictor of Relapse

Terry D. Schneekloth, Joanna M. Biernacka, Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, Victor M. Karpyak, Mark A. Frye, Larissa L. Loukianova, Susanna R. Stevens, Maureen S. Drews, Jennifer R. Geske, David A. Mrazek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives: Alcoholism treatment interventions, both psychosocial and pharmacologic, aim to reduce cravings to drink. Yet, the role of craving in treatment outcomes remains unclear. This study evaluated craving intensity measured with the Penn Alcohol Craving Scale (PACS) at admission and discharge from residential treatment as a predictive factor of relapse after treatment. Methods: The study cohort included 314 alcohol-dependent subjects. Associations between relapse after discharge, PACS score, and clinical variables were investigated using time-to-event analyses. The primary analysis, based on the intent-to-treat principle, presumed relapse in those declining follow-up or not responding to contact attempts. Secondary analysis utilized data from 226 subjects successfully contacted after discharge with a median follow-up time of 365 days. Results: The intent-to-treat analysis demonstrated that relapse was associated with higher level of craving at admission (p=.002) and discharge (p <.001). The analysis of data from patients successfully contacted after discharge led to similar results. A multivariable analysis indicated that relapse rates increased as PACS scores increased, and a higher discharge PACS score was significantly associated with relapse (p=.006) even after adjusting for covariates. Conclusions and Scientific Significance: This study demonstrates that higher PACS scores at the time of admission and discharge are associated with relapse following residential addiction treatment. These data support the role of craving in relapse and the utility of craving measurement as a clinical guide in assessing relapse risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S20-S26
JournalAmerican Journal on Addictions
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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