Timeline Followback Method (Drugs, Cigarettes, and Marijuana)

Original/alternative title:  TLFB-DCM


The tool is a structured questionnaire designed to assess recent cigarette, marijuana, and other drug use. The TLFB can be administered by an interviewer, self-administered, or administered by computer.

The TLFB can be used as a clinical and research tool to obtain a variety of quantitative estimates of marijuana, cigarette, and other drug use. These quantitative estimates and drug use-consumption variables can be used to measure change in drug, marijuana, and cigarette use levels in outcome monitoring and evaluation studies. In several studies, data obtained with a method like the TLFB have been sensitive to changes in drug and marijuana use.

The TLFB can also be used in clinical settings as a motivational advice feedback tool to analyze clients’ marijuana, cigarette, and other drug use and to increase their motivation to change (e.g., feedback at assessment, comparative feedback such as before and during treatment). It has been adapted for use with dual diagnosis patients, and is a good index of treatment-related change.

Additional information

Sobell LC; Sobell MB; Buchan G; Cleland PA; Fedoroff I; Leo GI. The reliability of the Timeline Followback method applied to drug, cigarette, and cannabis use. Presented at the 30th Annual Meeting of the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy, November 1996. New York, NY, 1996.

Fals-Stewart W; O'Farrell TJ; Freitas TT; McFarlin SK; Rutigliano P. The Timeline Followback reports of psychoactive substance use by drug-abusing patients: Psychometric properties. J Consult Clin Psychol 2000;68(1):134-144.

Lewis-Esquerre JM; Colby SM; Tevyaw TO; Eaton CA; Kahler CW; Monti PM. Validation of the timeline follow-back in the assessment of adolescent smoking. Drug Alcohol Depend 2005;79(1):33-43.

Brown RA; Burgess ES; Sales SD; Evans DM; Miller IW. Reliability and validity of a smoking Timeline Follow-Back interview. Psychol Addict Behav 1998; 12: 101-112.

Midanik LT; Hines AM; Barrett DC; et al. Self-reports of alcohol use, drug use and sexual behavior: Expanding the timeline follow-back technique. J Stud Alcohol 1998; 59: 681-689.

Long CG; Hollin CR. Assessing comorbid substance use in detained psychiatric patients: issues and instruments for evaluating treatment outcome. Substance Use and Misuse 2009; 44(11):1602-1641.