Background: In low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), the mismatch between the number of individuals needing and those receiving treatment for alcohol use disorders (AUD) is substantial. In order to provide suggestions for the scaling up of effective service provision we systematically reviewed the current evidence on the effectiveness of AUD-focused psychosocial interventions in LMIC.
Methods: We used a systematic review methodology following the PRISMA guidelines. Twelve electronic databases listing published and grey literature were searched and only randomized-controlled trials (RCTs) were included. Where possible, effect sizes were calculated using Hedges' g indices.
Results: Twenty-one RCTs conducted in 15 different LMIC between 1992 and 2018 fulfilled inclusion criteria. Most studies employed brief one-on-one interventions facilitated by trained primary care staff. Eighty-six percent of RCTs based their interventions on the principles of motivational interviewing (MI) with the majority supplementing MI-based interventions with alcohol-tailored elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The remaining RCTs employed CBT-components exclusively. Just over 40% of studies included in quantitative analyses (n=17) yielded an at least medium-sized effect (g≥.50) of the respective intervention compared to alcohol-related and unrelated control conditions or waiting list. Only half of the trials implementing the widely applied MI-based approaches (or MI-based approaches blended with CBT-elements) were superior to their respective control conditions.
Conclusion: To date, a relatively small number of RCTs investigating AUD-focused treatments has been conducted in LMIC. The majority of between condition effect size estimates were small and no type of intervention can clearly be recommended over another. No RCTs were conducted in conflict-affected areas in LMIC although they would merit particular attention since AUD is often linked to trauma-related mental health disorders. More RCTs in LMIC are required and alternatives to MI-based approaches should be investigated. This systematic review summarizes properties of effective interventions and provides implications for future research.