Introduction: Abstinence from drinking represents the primary treatment target for alcohol use disorders (AUD) in youth, but few adolescents who engage in problematic drinking seek treatment. A reduction in World Health Organization (WHO) drinking risk level has been established as valid and reliable non-abstinent treatment target for AUD in adults but remains unstudied in youth. Methods: The present study used data from the NIDA-CTN-0028 trial to examine associations between reductions in WHO drinking risk level and changes in global functioning and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms during treatment in a sample of adolescents (ages 13–18 years) with ADHD and comorbid substance use disorder (SUD) (n = 297, 61% with AUD) receiving a 16-week intervention that combined ADHD pharmacotherapy (OROS-methylphenidate vs. placebo) and drug-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy. Results: Shifts in drinking risk level during treatment were highly variable in adolescents treated for ADHD/SUD, and influenced by AUD diagnostic status. In the total sample, 15% of participants had a 2-level or greater reduction in WHO drinking risk level, with 59% and 24% showing no change or an increase in risk-level during treatment respectively. Achieving at least a 2-level change in WHO drinking risk level during treatment was associated with greater reduction in ADHD symptoms and better functional outcomes. Conclusions: These findings parallel the adult AUD literature and provide preliminary support for the use 2-level reductions in WHO risk levels for alcohol use as a clinically valid non-abstinent treatment outcome for youth with ADHD and comorbid AUD.
- Alcohol use disorder
- Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Non-abstinent outcomes
- World Health Organization (WHO) drinking risk levels
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health