Newswise — Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is a huge public health challenge. Despite a 7% reduction in DUI rates in the last decade, drink─driving remains the leading cause of traffic-related fatalities in the US. Among those convicted of a first DUI offense, over a quarter receive a subsequent conviction within ten years. DUI programs are widespread across the country and are often mandated by the court for individuals arrested for DUI. However, few studies have rigorously examined the effectiveness of these programs for preventing re-offending. A new clinical trial published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research has examined the impact of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) on rates of impaired driving, as well as alcohol consumption and other alcohol-related consequences, among individuals with a first-time DUI attending a DUI program.

CBT is a counseling approach that addresses how people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors influence each other in both healthy and harmful ways. It is already proven to be an effective treatment for alcohol use disorder, but has not been widely studied for an effect on DUI. The new trial, led by researchers from the RAND Corporation in California, involved a racially and ethnically diverse group of over three hundred participants with a first-time DUI offense who were enrolled across three DUI programs in Los Angeles. Participants were randomly assigned to attend either a 12-session course of CBT (adapted for use in first-time DUI programs) or an existing non-CBT group counseling course (‘usual care’), and completed follow-up questionnaires after four and ten months.

Participants in both the CBT and usual care group reported significant reductions in binge drinking and alcohol-related consequences after 10 months. However, those receiving CBT were less likely than the usual care group to report driving after drinking at follow up; after 4 and 10 months respectively, the odds of drink─driving were 63% and 71% lower for the CBT group compared with usual care, although only the 4-month difference was statistically significant. This intervention effect was also more pronounced for females at 10-month follow-up.

These preliminary but promising findings suggest that incorporating cognitive-behavioral strategies within DUI programs could result in short-term reductions in drink─driving behavior.  Additional research is needed to further examine the impact of CBT among individuals with a first-time DUI, as well as among those with multiple DUI offenses.

Randomized Clinical Trial Examining Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Individuals with a First-Time DUI Offense


Journal Link: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research