Change search
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Compared with what? An analysis of control group typies in Cochrane and Campbell reviews of psychosocial treatment efficacy with substance use disorders
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
2015 (English)In: Addiction, ISSN 0965-2140, E-ISSN 1360-0443, Vol. 110, no 3, 420-428 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background and Aims

A crucial, but under-appreciated, aspect in experimental research on psychosocial treatments of substance use disorders concerns what kinds of control groups are used. This paper examines how the distinction between different control group designs has been handled by the Cochrane and the Campbell Collaborations in their systematic reviews of psychosocial treatments of substance abuse disorders.


We assessed Cochrane and Campbell reviews (nā€‰=ā€‰8) that were devoted to psychosocial treatments of substance use disorders. We noted what control groups were considered and analysed the extent to which the reviews provided a rationale for chosen comparison conditions. We also analysed whether type of control group in the primary studies influenced how the reviews framed the effects discussed and whether this was related to conclusions drawn.


The reviews covered studies involving widely different control conditions. Overall, little attention was paid to the use of different control groups (e.g. head-to-head comparisons vs. untreated controls) and what this implies when interpreting effect sizes. Seven of eight reviews did not provide a rationale for the choice of comparison conditions.


Cochrane- and Campbell reviews of the efficacy of psychosocial interventions with substance use disorders seem to underappreciate that use of different control group types yields different effect estimates. Most reviews have not distinguished between different control group designs and therefore have provided a confused picture regarding absolute and relative treatment efficacy. A systematic approach to treating different control group designs in research reviews is necessary for meaningful estimates of treatment efficacy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 110, no 3, 420-428 p.
Keyword [en]
Absolute effects, active, control groups, inactive, randomised controlled trials, relative effects
National Category
Social Work
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-110827DOI: 10.1111/add.12799ISI: 000350101200015OAI: diva2:773064
Available from: 2014-12-18 Created: 2014-12-18 Last updated: 2015-04-21Bibliographically approved

Open Access in DiVA

No full text

Other links

Publisher's full text

Search in DiVA

By author/editor
Karlsson, PatrikBergmark, Anders
By organisation
Department of Social Work
In the same journal
Social Work

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar
The number of downloads is the sum of all downloads of full texts. It may include eg previous versions that are now no longer available

Altmetric score

Total: 555 hits
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link