"Alcohol Harm Reduction is Health Promotion: A 15-year Journey Examining Patterns and Predictors of Alcohol Treatment Outcomes"

Katie Witkiewitz, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico

Abstinence from alcohol is often viewed as the most desirable and ideal outcome for individuals with alcohol use disorder. Yet, most individuals with alcohol use disorder do not want to abstain from drinking and do not seek treatment.

Several studies of treatment-seeking and population-based non-treatment-seeking samples have found that significant reductions in alcohol use during and following treatment, or over time in the absence of treatment are common among individuals with alcohol use disorder. Reductions in drinking are associated with significant improvements in health, quality of life, and other consequences of alcohol use disorder, and also stable over time.

Over the past 15 years, there have been several significant methodological advances in studying patterns and predictors of alcohol use and drinking reductions, yet most of the work has not had a major influence on clinical practice, and has had no effect on regulatory guidance for clinical trials examining new medications for alcohol use disorder in the United States. The current talk will provide a broad overview of this literature and present new data on the validity of World Health Organization drinking risk levels as a harm reduction endpoint. Results from several recent studies provide evidence that reductions in World Health Organization drinking risk levels are a viable alternative to abstinence as a harm reduction strategy and as an endpoint for alcohol clinical trials. The talk will also highlight the importance of drinking reductions as a significant public health priority.

This seminar will also be broadcast online via Zoom at https://psu.zoom.us/j/988552131.

Presenter Bio: Dr. Katie Witkiewitz is a Regents’ Professor of Psychology at the University of New Mexico with a joint appointment at the Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and has worked extensively on the development of a theoretical model of biopsychosocial influences on substance use relapse. She has been conducting research examining patterns and predictors of alcohol use since 1998 and has recently been working to improve research and methodological practices in the study of alcohol treatment outcomes. To date, Dr. Witkiewitz has authored 5 books and over 190 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, and she has given over 75 presentations and invited talks. Her research has been supported by grants from the National Institute on Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, totaling over $22 million in research funding since 2004.