Addiction treatment readiness has been shown to predict enrollment and success in drug treatment programs. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health asked, “Does taking steps to control one’s drug use predict entry into treatment?”
The researchers set out to examine the association between treatment readiness (defined as engaging in activities to control one’s drug use) and enrolling in a drug treatment program. They examined data collected in 585 face-to-face interviews between 2004 and 2007. They concluded that taking steps to control drug use was associated with entering treatment at follow-up interviews. Steps to control drug use might include setting limits on use, avoiding the purchase of drugs, and avoiding drug-related people and places. Further, the likelihood of entering drug treatment increased as the number of activities to control drug use increased.
Taking steps to control drug use predicts success as well as enrollment in drug treatment. Individuals who exhibit treatment readiness are more likely to succeed in the program. In this study, treatment readiness was defined by external activities. Treatment readiness is also an internal condition. Individuals need to be ready to change if they want to successfully overcome addiction.
Individuals who have taken steps to control their drug use have already exhibited some degree of treatment readiness. However, some individuals need help to develop treatment readiness.
Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) is a type of behavioral therapy aimed at increasing an individual’s readiness to change. Many individuals are ambivalent about their drug or alcohol use. MET helps these individuals see the costs and risks of continued use. Cost-benefit analyses are typically utilized in MET.
MET also helps individuals develop a clear plan for change, commitment to change, and the confidence necessary to change. Simply understanding the negative consequences of a bad habit does not stimulate readiness to change for many individuals. Different individuals have different reasons for wanting to change. MET helps to clarify those reasons. Significant others can play a major role in an individual’s motivation to change, and therapists often encourage significant others to attend MET sessions.
Readiness to change is not necessarily equivalent to treatment readiness. To increase treatment readiness, individuals must understand how treatment can help them achieve their personal goals, and they must accept their responsibilities in the treatment process.
Because MET has been proven successful in increasing readiness to change, it is often used at the beginning of drug treatment programs. Motivational enhancement therapy typically last for only four sessions. After building motivation and readiness to change, an individual is much more likely to follow through with a drug treatment program and succeed in the program.
Taking simple steps to control one’s drug addiction may ease the transition into drug treatment, whether the treatment is an outpatient program or an inpatient or residential drug rehab program.
Overcoming addiction is similar to solving other problems in life. It is unfortunate that some approaches to recovery suggest that recovery requires behaviors that are radically different from day-to-day problem solving. This study shows us that preparation (by taking small steps in the right direction even before the main project has begun), applies in addiction recovery just as it does in life. The student who starts reading the textbook before the first class uses the same principle, and usually performs better once class begins.
Davey-Rothwell M, Frydl A, Latkin C. Does taking steps to control one’s drug use predict entry into treatment? American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 2009: 35(5), 279-283.