Self-help strategies among patients with substance use disorders

Joseph Westermeyer, Sarah Myott, Rembrant Aarts, Paul Thuras

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The objective of this study was to determine (1) the type and extent of selfhelp efforts among patients presenting for treatment of substance use disorders, and (2) the association of self-help with demographic and clinical characteristics. A retrospective report of life self-help methods, current demographic characteristics, and current and lifetime clinical characteristics was used. Six hundred and forty-two patients in treatment for substance use disorder were interviewed at one of two university medical centers with Alcohol-Drug Programs located within departments of psychiatry. A research associate (RA) interviewed patients regarding seven types of self-help involving specific, mutually exclusive behaviors and rated the patient's lifetime self-help methods. The patient, RA, and addiction psychiatrists provided demographic, familial, and clinical information. Most patients (78%) had tried one or more types of self-help, with a mean of 2.7 methods per patient. They more frequently chose methods related to the substance (decreasing amounts or frequency, or changing substance type) or joining a self-help group than methods that involved changing friends, residence, or occupation/job/school Certain patterns of self-help tended to occur together (e.g., changing substance frequency and dose), whereas others appeared more independent (e.g., joining a self-help group). Some self-help approaches occurred mostly in association with other methods rather than alone (e.g., changing occupation/job/school). More self-help was associated with higher socioeconomic class, more relatives with substance use disorder, greater severity of substance use disorder, and more treatment for substance use disorder. Self-help tends to occur more often after exposure to addicted relatives or addiction treatment. Clinicians and public adult education should promulgate self-help methods in the general population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPsychosocial Treatments
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)0203503503, 9780203503508
StatePublished - Nov 24 2003


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