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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Brown Researchers Design Innovative, Technology-Assisted Intervention for Patients of Adolescents in Substance Abuse Treatment

According to the most recent data from the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, there are 3450 residential substance use treatment facilities in the United States and 10.3% of all adolescents who seek treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) will receive treatment in this setting. Adolescents in residential SUD treatment are also at extremely high risk of relapse, with follow-up studies suggesting that 60% of adolescents discharged from residential SUD facilities will relapse within 90 days. Parents have been established as a critical influence on adolescents’ initiation and maintenance of substance abuse, as well as their substance use outcomes and likelihood of relapse following treatment. Two parenting processes that appear to be particularly important protective factors against adolescent SUDs are monitoring and supervision, and communication with the adolescent. However, parents of adolescents with SUDs have traditionally been difficult to engage in behavioral treatments.

[Photo: Dr. Sara Becker]

The purpose of this study, led by Dr. Sara Becker, Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, and faculty member in the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, was to adapt and evaluate a technology-assisted intervention for parents of adolescents in residential SUD treatment. The previously implemented intervention, Parenting Wisely, was an internet-based, self-paced program that consisted of nine modules that covered common parenting problems including addressing adolescent substance misuse, monitoring friends, and improving parent-child communication. Qualitative data from this pilot suggested that parents did not want to lose the “human element” of treatment, and also wanted convenient access to an expert and other parents post-discharge. As such, this intervention added four in-person counselling sessions, personalized text messages, and an expert-facilitated online message board for parents.

Dr. Becker and her colleagues propose a two-phase approach to evaluate this intervention; a small open trial to refine the intervention, followed by a randomized pilot trial to assess feasibility and acceptability. By adapting and evaluating an intervention for adolescents in residential treatment, this program has the potential to advance treatment by addressing a high-need population, targeting parental skills that have been shown to influence adolescent substance abuse and related risk behaviors, working with parents at a critical treatment juncture, and developing a model with potential for widespread dissemination.

This study was published in Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, Volume 12, Issue 1, 2017.

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