Problem alcohol use is common among illicit drug users and is associated with adverse health outcomes. It is also an important factor contributing to a poor prognosis among drug users with hepatitis C virus (HCV) as it impacts on progression to hepatic cirrhosis or opiate overdose in opioid users.
To assess the effects of psychosocial interventions for problem alcohol use in illicit drug users (principally problem drug users of opiates and stimulants).
We searched the Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group trials register (June 2014), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library, Issue 11, June 2014), MEDLINE (1966 to June 2014); EMBASE (1974 to June 2014); CINAHL (1982 to June 2014); PsycINFO (1872 to June 2014) and the reference lists of eligible articles. We also searched: 1) conference proceedings (online archives only) of the Society for the Study of Addiction, International Harm Reduction Association, International Conference on Alcohol Harm Reduction and American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence; 2) online registers of clinical trials: Current Controlled Trials, Clinical Trials.org, Center Watch and the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform.
Randomised controlled trials comparing psychosocial interventions with another therapy (other psychosocial treatment, including non-pharmacological therapies, or placebo) in adult (over the age of 18 years) illicit drug users with concurrent problem alcohol use.
We used the standard methodological procedures expected by The Cochrane Collaboration.
Four studies, involving 594 participants, were included. Half of the trials were rated as having a high or unclear risk of bias. The studies considered six different psychosocial interventions grouped into four comparisons: (1) cognitive-behavioural coping skills training versus 12-step facilitation (one study; 41 participants), (2) brief intervention versus treatment as usual (one study; 110 participants), (3) group or individual motivational interviewing (MI) versus hepatitis health promotion (one study; 256 participants) and (4) brief motivational intervention (BMI) versus assessment-only (one study; 187 participants). Differences between studies precluded any data pooling. Findings are described for each trial individually.Comparison 1: low-quality evidence; no significant difference for any of the outcomes considered Alcohol abstinence as maximum number of weeks of consecutive alcohol abstinence during treatment: mean difference (MD) 0.40 (95% confidence interval (CI) -1.14 to 1.94); illicit drug abstinence as maximum number of weeks of consecutive abstinence from cocaine during treatment: MD 0.80 (95% CI -0.70 to 2.30); alcohol abstinence as number achieving three or more weeks of consecutive alcohol abstinence during treatment: risk ratio (RR) 1.96 (95% CI 0.43 to 8.94); illicit drug abstinence as number achieving three or more weeks of consecutive abstinence from cocaine during treatment: RR 1.10 (95% CI 0.42 to 2.88); alcohol abstinence during follow-up year: RR 2.38 (95% CI 0.10 to 55.06); illicit drug abstinence as abstinence from cocaine during follow-up year: RR 0.39 (95% CI 0.04 to 3.98), moderate-quality evidence.Comparison 2: low-quality evidence, no significant difference for all the outcomes considered Alcohol use as AUDIT scores at three months: MD 0.80 (95% -1.80 to 3.40); alcohol use as AUDIT scores at nine months: MD 2.30 (95% CI -0.58 to 5.18); alcohol use as number of drinks per week at three months: MD 0.70 (95% CI -3.85 to 5.25); alcohol use as number of drinks per week at nine months: MD -0.30 (95% CI -4.79 to 4.19); alcohol use as decreased alcohol use at three months: RR 1.13 (95% CI 0.67 to 1.93); alcohol use as decreased alcohol use at nine months: RR 1.34 (95% CI 0.69 to 2.58), moderate-quality evidence.Comparison 3 (group and individual MI), low-quality evidence: no significant difference for all outcomes Group MI: number of standard drinks consumed per day over the past month: MD -0.40 (95% CI -2.03 to 1.23); frequency of drug use: MD 0.00 (95% CI -0.03 to 0.03); composite drug score (frequency*severity for all drugs taken): MD 0.00 (95% CI -0.42 to 0.42); greater than 50% reduction in number of standard drinks consumed per day over the last 30 days: RR 1.10 (95% CI 0.82 to 1.48); abstinence from alcohol over the last 30 days: RR 0.88 (95% CI 0.49 to 1.58).Individual MI: number of standard drinks consumed per day over the past month: MD -0.10 (95% CI -1.89 to 1.69); frequency of drug use (as measured using the Addiction Severity Index (ASI drug): MD 0.00 (95% CI -0.03 to 0.03); composite drug score (frequency*severity for all drugs taken): MD -0.10 (95% CI -0.46 to 0.26); greater than 50% reduction in number of standard drinks consumed per day over the last 30 days: RR 0.92 (95% CI 0.68 to 1.26); abstinence from alcohol over the last 30 days: RR 0.97 (95% CI 0.56 to 1.67).Comparison 4: more people reduced alcohol use (by seven or more days in the past month at 6 months) in the BMI group than in the control group (RR 1.67; 95% CI 1.08 to 2.60), moderate-quality evidence. No significant difference was reported for all other outcomes: number of days in the past 30 days with alcohol use at one month: MD -0.30 (95% CI -3.38 to 2.78); number of days in the past month with alcohol use at six months: MD -1.50 (95% CI -4.56 to 1.56); 25% reduction of drinking days in the past month: RR 1.23 (95% CI 0.96 to 1.57); 50% reduction of drinking days in the past month: RR 1.27 (95% CI 0.96 to 1.68); 75% reduction of drinking days in the past month: RR 1.21 (95% CI 0.84 to 1.75); one or more drinking days' reduction in the past month: RR 1.12 (95% CI 0.91 to 1.38).