Computers may aid drug abuse treatment

People in treatment for drug abuse may be more likely to succeed with the help of computer-based behavioral therapy, a pilot study suggests.

Computers may aid drug abuse treatment
In a study of 77 adults being treated for drug and alcohol dependence, Yale University researchers found that those given computer-based lessons in how to change their behavior in addition to standard therapy tended to fare better than those given standard therapy alone.

On average, the group that received computer-based therapy failed fewer drug tests and stayed abstinent slightly longer during the eight-week study.

The findings suggest that specially designed computer programs can help bolster traditional, face-to-face drug counseling, according to the researchers.

"We think this is a very exciting way of reaching more people who have substance use problems and providing a means of helping them learn effective ways to change their behavior," lead researcher Dr.

Kathleen M. Carroll, a professor of psychiatry at Yale, said in a statement.

She and her colleagues report the findings in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The study included men and women being treated at an outpatient clinic for dependence on alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or opiates like heroin. All of the patients were offered standard therapy, which included individual and group counseling sessions. Half were randomly assigned to have access to the computer-based therapy as well.

Carroll and her colleagues designed the computer program to help drug abusers learn ways to resist their substance of choice and otherwise change their behavior. Each lesson included a movie that presented a real-life scenario, like an offer of drugs from a dealer, then gave ways to help deal with the situation.

Over the eight-week study, the researchers found, patients in the computer group failed their urine drug tests about half as often as those in standard therapy did. They also had, on average, a longer period of continual abstinence -- 22 days, versus 17 days.

While the findings are promising, more studies are needed before similar computer programs can be more widely used, Carroll and her colleagues write. They are currently conducting a larger trial with patients in treatment for cocaine dependence.

SOURCE: American Journal of Psychiatry, May 1, 2008.

Reuters
Last Mod: 07 Mayıs 2008, 18:25
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