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

Published in: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (2019). doi: 10.1111/acer.14161

Posted on RAND.org on September 24, 2019

by Karen Chan Osilla, Susan M. Paddock, Colleen M. McCullough, Lisa Jonsson, Katherine E. Watkins

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Driving under the influence (DUI) programs are a unique setting to reduce disparities in treatment access to those who may not otherwise access treatment. Providing evidence-based therapy in these programs may help prevent DUI recidivism.


We conducted a randomized clinical trial of 312 participants enrolled in 1 of 3 DUI programs in California. Participants were 21 and older with a first-time DUI offense who screened positive for at-risk drinking in the past year. Participants were randomly assigned to a 12-session manualized cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or usual care (UC) group and then surveyed 4 and 10 months later. We conducted intent-to-treat analyses to test the hypothesis that participants receiving CBT would report reduced impaired driving, alcohol consumption (drinks per week, abstinence, and binge drinking), and alcohol-related negative consequences. We also explored whether race/ethnicity and gender moderated CBT findings.


Participants were 72.3% male and 51.7% Hispanic, with an average age of 33.2 (SD = 12.4). Relative to UC, participants receiving CBT had lower odds of driving after drinking at the 4- and 10-month follow-ups compared to participants receiving UC (odds ratio [OR] = 0.37, p = 0.032, and OR = 0.29, p = 0.065, respectively). This intervention effect was more pronounced for females at 10-month follow-up. The remaining 4 outcomes did not significantly differ between UC versus CBT at 4- and 10-month follow-ups. Participants in both UC and CBT reported significant within-group reductions in 2 of 5 outcomes, binge drinking and alcohol-related consequences, at 10-month follow-up (p < 0.001).


In the short-term, individuals receiving CBT reported significantly lower rates of repeated DUI than individuals receiving UC, which may suggest that learning cognitive behavioral strategies to prevent impaired driving may be useful in achieving short-term reductions in impaired driving.

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