Brief Encounters Can Provide Motivation To Reduce or Stop Drug Abuse
New research supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse
(NIDA), National Institutes of Health, shows that meeting with an
addiction peer counselor just once at the time of a routine doctor
visit with a followup booster phone call can motivate abusers of
cocaine and heroin to reduce their drug use.
The study, by husband and wife research team Dr. Judith Bernstein
and Dr. Edward Bernstein and their colleagues at Boston University
Schools of Medicine and Public Health, is published in the January
2005 issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
“Brief interventions have proven effective in initiating
positive behavior changes in people who are dependent on alcohol,”
notes NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. “Preliminary assessments
of this process in drug abusers have been encouraging enough to
investigate it more thoroughly as a therapeutic tool to enhance
The motivational interview used in this study was designed to establish
rapport with the participant and covered such areas as asking permission
to discuss drugs, exploring the pros and cons of drug use, eliciting
the gap between real and desired quality of life, and assessing
readiness to change. This 20-minute intervention also included development
of an action plan.
The study was conducted among 1,175 men and women who had tested
positive for cocaine or heroin abuse. Participants were randomly
assigned to an intervention group or a control group. Intervention
consisted of a motivational interview with a substance abuse outreach
worker who also was a recovering addict, referrals to active drug
abuse treatment programs, a written list of treatment options, and
a followup telephone call 10 days later. Members of the control
group received only the written list.
Six months following enrollment, the researchers found that among
those who abused cocaine, 22.3 percent of the intervention group
were abstinent from the drug, compared with 16.9 percent of the
control group; among those who abused heroin, 40.2 percent of the
intervention group were abstinent from the drug, compared with 30.6
percent of the control group. As for people who used both drugs,
17.4 percent of the intervention group were drug free, compared
with 12.8 percent of the control group.
“This study not only shows that this type of intervention
provides true benefits in reducing cocaine and heroin abuse, it
also suggests that peer interventionists can play an important role
in busy clinical environments,” says Dr. Volkow.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a component of the National
Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
NIDA supports more than 85 percent of the world’s research
on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute
carries out a large variety of programs to ensure the rapid dissemination
of research information and its implementation in policy and practice.
Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and information
on NIDA research and other activities can be found on the NIDA home
page at http://www.drugabuse.gov.