Illusory predictors: Generalizability of findings in cocaine treatment retention research

Angela L. Stotts, Marc E. Mooney, Shelly L. Sayre, Meredith Novy, Joy M. Schmitz, John Grabowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Treatment retention is of paramount importance in cocaine treatment research as treatment completion rates are often 50% or less. Failure to retain cocaine patients in treatment has both significant research and clinical implications. In this paper we qualitatively and quantitatively demonstrate the inconsistency found across analyses of retention predictors in order to highlight the problem. First, a qualitative review of the published literature was undertaken to identify the frequency of predictors studied and their relations to treatment retention. Second, an empirical demonstration of predictor stability was conducted by testing a common set of variables across three similar 12-week cocaine clinical trials conducted by the same investigators in the same research clinic within a five-year period. Results of the literature review indicated inconsistently selected variables of convenience, widely varying statistical procedures, and discrepant findings of significance. Further, quantitative analyses resulted in discrepancies in variables identified as significant predictors of retention among the three studies. Potential sources of heterogeneity affecting the consistency of findings across studies and recommendations to improve the validity and generalizability of predictor findings in future studies are proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2819-2836
Number of pages18
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse research grants DA09262 and DA06143. Part of the data was presented at the annual meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence in Orlando, Florida, June 2005.

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Cocaine treatment
  • Methodology
  • Retention
  • Retention predictors


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