Home Lifestyle Health Study Finds Holistic Approach Best When Tackling Non-Medical Drug Use

Study Finds Holistic Approach Best When Tackling Non-Medical Drug Use

Health practitioners are constantly developing new ways to help those with drug and alcohol addictions wean themselves from their substance of choice. Most such programs have limited success, however. A new study finds that interventions that take a multidimensional approach — tackling the biological, social, environmental, and mental health obstacles to overcome while also addressing a person’s substance use — work best for those hoping to stop using drugs.

U. of I. psychology professor Dolores Albarracín has spent much of her career studying how people respond to public health messages asking them to change their behavior. (Image: Dolores Albarracín)
U. of I. psychology professor Dolores Albarracín has spent much of her career studying how people respond to public health messages asking them to change their behavior. (Image: Dolores Albarracín)

The study, reported in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, also found that those with alcohol addiction do best with simple interventions that focus only on their alcohol use. Dolores Albarracín, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who led the study with Ph.D. student Wenhao Dai, said:

According to published reports, deaths from overdoses of heroin, methadone, opioids, and cocaine are at an all-time high in the U.S., and alcohol use accounts for tens of thousands of deaths each year. However, the authors of the new study wrote:

Decades of research into behavioral methods have yielded no obvious improvements. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40-60 percent of patients who engage in medication-assisted treatment programs for substance-use disorder will relapse. Reviews of alcohol treatment suggest only that:

Albarracín, who is also a professor of business administration and an affiliate of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the U. of I., said:

Some studies of drug and alcohol treatment have looked at also targeting other behaviors to help reduce the harm associated with drug and alcohol use. These include methods to promote a healthy lifestyle, prevent transmission of infections, seek social support, or make better use of community services. Albarracín added:

The researchers found a positive association between the number of interventions a drug-treatment or prevention program included and its effectiveness in combatting non-medical drug use, but not alcohol use.

Ph.D. student Wenhao Dai is first author of the new study. (Image: Wenhao Dai)
Ph.D. student Wenhao Dai is first author of the new study. (Image: Wenhao Dai)

Addressing a person’s alcohol use was better than not, but there were no further gains from adding other recommendations. Albarracín said:

Study co-authors include psychology graduate student Ryan Palmer, postdoctoral researcher Aashna Sunderrajan, graduate student Fan-Xuan Chen, and social work research fellow Marta Durantini. Other co-authors are Flor Sanchez, of Autonomous University of Madrid, and Laura Glasman, of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Provided by: UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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Troy Oakes
Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.

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