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Objective Continuous Monitoring of Alcohol Consumption for Three Months Among Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Outpatients

Sheila Alessi, Nancy Petry, Nancy Barnett
Alcohol 2019 January 30

BACKGROUND: Transdermal alcohol sensing technology allows for objective continuous monitoring of alcohol use. The purpose of this study was to characterize alcohol consumption measured with this technology among alcohol use disorder treatment outpatients in two clinical trials.

METHODS: Participants were community-based alcohol treatment outpatients in usual care (N = 63) during the first three years of studies that monitored drinking with the secure continuous remote alcohol monitor (SCRAMx®) ankle bracelet. Research visits for uploading SCRAMx data occurred every other week in Study 1 (n = 43) and once weekly in Study 2 (n = 20), for 3 months. Staff used timeline follow-back procedures to collect self-reports of drinking frequency and magnitude at each research visit.

RESULTS: In the 90 days before intake, 85.7% (n = 54) of participants reported consuming alcohol, and consumption occurred on a median (interquartile range) 35.7% (29.0%) of days. During the treatment period, per SCRAMx versus self-report, the percentage who drank was 92.1% (n = 58) versus 46.6% (n = 30), p = .03, and consumption occurred on 16.5% (36.5%) versus 0.0% (21.4%) of days, respectively, p < .001. Median longest duration of abstinence was 26.0 (25.0) versus 39.0 (58.0) days, respectively, p < .001. Breath alcohol concentration, estimated from SCRAMx data, ranged from 0.02-0.91 g/dL.

CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study to quantify alcohol consumption among alcohol treatment outpatients using transdermal sensor technology. Results indicate that most patients drank while in outpatient care. Issues to consider for future applications of this technology and implications for alcohol treatment are discussed.


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