Illusory predictors: Generalizability of findings in cocaine treatment retention research.

Publication Date



Addict Behav. 2007 December; 32(12): 2819–2836.


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.


Adult, Clinical Trials as Topic, Cocaine-Related Disorders, Female, Humans, Male, Patient Compliance, Research Design