Which Addicts Are Most Likely to Seek Treatment?
Researchers and addiction specialists have compiled an extensive body of scientifically verified evidence on effective ways to develop drug treatment programs. However, people with significant drug problems often don’t feel the need to enter treatment. In a study designated for publication in October 2014 in the journal Addictive Behaviors, a team of American researchers used a model called the Theory of Planned Behavior to examine the connections between attitudes toward drug treatment and the chances that a drug user will perceive a need to enter treatment.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse outlines the evidence-based principles that drive successful treatment of drug abuse and drug addiction. These principles include understanding addiction as a potentially chronic but manageable condition, understanding that there are no cookie-cutter treatment approaches that work for all people, making treatment as easily accessible as possible and viewing the entire person during treatment instead of just a “drug addict.” Additional facets of effective drug treatment programs include the appropriate use of medications, the appropriate use of psychotherapy and other non-medication based approaches, as-needed adjustments in treatment approach for each individual, continual monitoring of the risks for a drug relapse and recognition of the frequency of mental illness in people undergoing drug treatment.
Pharmaceutical researchers have developed a number of medications to deal with the effects of addiction to opioid drugs or medications, alcohol and tobacco/nicotine. However, the treatment of other forms of addiction commonly depends on the effective use of counseling or psychotherapy. Some people participate in outpatient programs that only require periodic check-ins. However, others take part in residential programs in hospitals or specialized facilities. While some individuals enter drug treatment voluntarily, others are ordered or compelled to go. Both voluntary and involuntary clients/patients can recover with the help of effective drug treatment.
The Theory of Planned Behavior has its roots in earlier behavioral theories first put forth in the 1980s. The theory holds that each person controls his or her actions through the interaction of six key factors. These factors are positive or negative attitudes toward a given subject or situation, the relative degree of motivation to engage in an action or behavior, a person’s perception of the approving or disapproving attitudes of others, the general set of norms that governs the behaviors of a social group, the amount of power a person believes he or she has in a given set of circumstances and a person’s level of belief in the ability to control his or her behavior.
Impact on Perceived Treatment Needs
In the study scheduled for publication in Addictive Behaviors, researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the University of North Carolina and the University of Kentucky used an examination of 400 African Americans who used cocaine to test the connection between attitudes toward drug treatment and the self-perceived need to enter treatment. Using the Theory of Planned Behavior as a framework, the researchers probed such issues as the study participants’ expectations about the desirable and undesirable aspects of cocaine use, their basic outlook on cocaine treatment programs and their belief in the usefulness of such programs. Topics investigated in the context of these larger issues included the amount of self-perceived social stigma involved in entering a treatment program and each participant’s level of belief in his or her ability to reduce cocaine intake without outside help.
The researchers concluded that several factors increase the odds that a cocaine user will feel the need to enter a treatment program. These factors include living in a rural rather than an urban area, believing that cocaine treatment produces beneficial results, having largely negative expectations of cocaine’s drug effects, feeling rejected for involvement in drug use, feeling a need to keep involvement in cocaine use hidden and feeling personally ready to take part in a treatment program. Each of these factors independently heightens the chances that an affected person will develop a sense of urgency toward treatment.
The study’s authors believe that their findings point toward the usefulness of the Theory of Planned Behavior as a method for determining the likelihood that a person will perceive drug treatment as a need. In turn, they note that perceived need has a substantial influence on the odds that a person will end up in treatment.
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