Researchers from Boston University have found that transdiagnostic cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was more effective in reducing heavy drinking in anxious alcoholics than progressive muscle relaxation therapy (PMR).
Researchers also discovered that the addition of medication to either CBT or PMR participants did not decrease their alcohol consumption.
The findings are published in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy.
For the study, participants were divided into four groups; one receiving the antidepressant venlaflaxine coupled with CBT, one receiving venlaflaxine with PMR, and the other groups receiving a placebo coupled with either CBT or PMR.
After 11 weeks the participants in the group receiving a placebo and CBT alone reported their heavy drinking had significantly decreased when compared to the other groups receiving treatment.
“It is vital to find better treatments, whether they are medication therapies or behavioral interventions,” said Domenic Ciraulo, M.D., principal investigator of the study.
“This study points to the importance of behavioral approaches to decrease heavy drinking through strategies to improve emotional regulation.”
According to the researchers, while antidepressant medications may help to control anxious feelings, the ability to acknowledge and respond to such intense feelings may be one reason that CBT is effective.
This may be why the addition of an antidepressant to CBT did not lead to improved outcomes.
“The goal of transdiagnostic CBT in this study was not to directly treat the specific anxiety symptoms of each anxiety disorder, but rather teach broad skills to cope with emotional issues that underlie a cluster of internalizing (mood and anxiety) disorders that often accompany alcoholism and may contribute to its onset and maintenance,” said David H. Barlow, Ph.D., a co-author of the study.
Source: Boston University