Overcoming addiction is a difficult task at any age, but a new study by the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and the Butler Center for Research at Hazelden revealed that most young adults want to overcome their addiction; they just need help along the way.

Researchers tracked 303 18- to 24-year-olds on the road to recovery at residential recovery centers at the time they began, at mid-treatment, at discharge and three months afterward. Upon entering, researchers noted high levels of motivation to abstain from drugs or alcohol but a low presence of coping skills, self-efficacy and commitment to mutual support groups. Increased levels in these areas – especially self-efficacy – during treatment predicted whether the young adults would continue abstaining three months post-treatment.

“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,” said study coauthor Valerie Slaymaker. “Treatment appears to work by increasing their confidence and ability to make and sustain healthy, recovery-related efforts.”

The researchers found residential treatment is most effective in increasing young adults’ feelings of self-efficacy and decreasing their psychological distress so that they are able to make lasting changes.

As the number of college students abusing alcohol is on the rise, University of Wisconsin researchers propose that identifying potential abusers through social networking sites might help to curtail the problem, according to The Journal of the American Medical Association.

For the study, researchers compared the alcohol use and intoxication/problem drinking (I/PD)  as seen on Facebook and any self-reported problem drinking using the AUDIT clinical scale, a 10-question scale that assesses consumption, dependence and harm or consequences of alcohol use. A score higher than eight is an indicator that the person is at risk for problem drinking. The researchers had 216 students between the ages of 18 and 20 complete the AUDIT questions:

“Using the standard cutoff score for at-risk problem drinking of eight or higher, 35.4 percent of participants scored into the at-risk for problem drinking category.  The authors also found that displayed alcohol references on Facebook were positively associated with being categorized as at-risk for problem drinking with 58.3 percent of I/PD displayers meeting criteria for at-risk problem drinking, compared with 37.8 percent of alcohol displayers and 22.6 percent of nondisplayers meeting this criteria. As a group, the AUDIT scores for I/PD displayers was 9.5, the score for alcohol displayers was 6.7 and for nondisplayers it was 4.7. Compared with alcohol displayers, I/PD displayers had 1.48 times higher AUDIT scores. Men who were I/PD displayers had an 89 percent higher AUDIT score than men who were nondisplayers; differences between women in each group were not statistically significant. Additionally, the I/PD displayers were more than twice as likely as the alcohol displayers (19 percent vs. 7 percent) and more than six times as likely as nondisplayers (19 percent vs. 3 percent) to report an alcohol-related injury in the past year.”

According to the authors, “These study findings can be used for offering evidence-based guidance recommending that students who display references to I/PD on Facebook undergo clinical screening for problem alcohol use. Our findings suggest that targeting keywords that relate to I/PD, rather than to general keywords regarding alcohol, may provide an innovative method to deliver a tailored message to a target population.”

Sources: Hazelden“Ready, Willing, and (Not) Able to Change: Young Adults’ Response to Residential Treatment,” JAMA

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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