Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Addiction treatment, ready or not

In Brief

Addiction treatment, ready or not

A test involving nearly a thousand opiate addicts is a disappointment for advocates of the stages-of-change model, a popular guideline for people who want to abandon bad habits and the professionals who are trying to help them. The model proposes that the success of treatment depends on the state of a person's readiness to change and that the type of treatment must be matched to the degree of readiness. The stage a person has reached is judged by present behavior, expressed intentions, and previous attempts to change.

English researchers tested the effectiveness of this model in a national study of drug abuse treatment involving nearly 1,100 patients. About 80% were opiate addicts, and most also used other illicit drugs. They were treated mainly in methadone maintenance or residential drug dependence programs.

The test of readiness was the Stages of Change Readiness and Treatment Eagerness Scale, a 19-item questionnaire originally developed for problem drinkers and now used by professionals treating various addictions and bad habits.

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