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Predictive validity of Marlatt's relapse taxonomy versus a more general relapse code

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Marlatt's system for classifying relapses involves integrating information about the context of a relapse into a judgment about the most critical aspects of the situation. Constraints in this taxonomy, however, may limit its validity. On a sample of 300 subjects drawn from six treatment facilities, we compared the predictive validity of Marlatt's taxonomy with that of a coding scheme with fewer constraints. Marlatt's taxonomy does not significantly predict drinking outcome, nor does it predict time to relapse. There is weak evidence, however, that under some circumstances Marlatt's taxonomy can predict the type of relapse subsequently observed. The alternative coding system also does not seem useful for predicting drinking outcome, although a possible association was found between internal attribution and time to return to heavy drinking. The alternative system does seem to be able to detect repetitive aspects of subsequent relapse situations; lack of social interactions, family setting, anxiety and depression were most likely to repeat. It may be useful to consider these relapse attributes in treatment planning. The minimal predictive validity for both the Marlatt and the alternative relapse code may be due to weaknesses in the relatively unstructured interview used to gather the data, or to failure to assess the most critical dimensions relating to subsequent relapse.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 1996


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