A new study finds that young people with an addiction usually do not lack the desire to break it, but need help and guidance to make it happen.

The longitudinal study discovers the behavioral training a young adult receives during treatment is essential to sustain the changes necessary to remain clean.

The study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, was conducted collaboratively by the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and the Butler Center for Research at Hazelden.

“This study suggests that strong motivation to change may exist from the get-go among young adults with severe addiction problems entering residential treatment, but the know-how and confidence to change come through the treatment experience,” explains John F. Kelly, Ph.D., who authored the study with colleagues Karen Urbanoski, Ph.D., Bettina Hoeppner, Ph.D., and Valerie Slaymaker, Ph.D.

The researchers analyzed 303 young adults, age 18-24, attending multidisciplinary, 12 Step-based residential treatment for alcohol or other drug addiction.

The study measured the subjects’ levels of change during treatment in key areas, including motivation, psychological distress, coping skills and commitment to participation in mutual support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Self-efficacy, or a young person’s confidence to stay clean and sober, was also assessed. Assessments were made at treatment intake, mid-treatment, at discharge and three months post-discharge.

Upon program initiation, study participants were highly motivated to remain abstinent but had low coping skills, self-efficacy and commitment to mutual support groups.

Treatment improved these measures and was associated with abstinence from alcohol or other drug use at three months post-treatment. Self-efficacy or increased confidence in ability to sustain recovery was the strongest predictor of abstinence.

Slaymaker said, “The young people in our study were quite motivated to do well in treatment but lacked the confidence, coping skills, and commitment to AA that are critical to longer-term success. Treatment appears to work by increasing their confidence and ability to make and sustain healthy, recovery-related efforts.”

Researchers believe the findings confirm the benefit of residential treatment for helping young adults learn the skills that are necessary to maintain abstinence.

Learning to cope and having confidence that one can stay clean are critical for improved outcomes.

Study authors believe this self-efficacy may serve as a useful clinical summary indicator to monitor change and relapse potential among young adults in treatment.

Source: Hazelden