Drug abuse by people with severe mental disorder is a significant public health problem for which there is no empirically validated treatment.
To evaluate the efficacy of a new behavioral treatment for drug abuse in this population: Behavioral Treatment for Substance Abuse in Severe and Persistent Mental Illness (BTSAS).
Participants were randomly assigned to 6 months of treatment in either BTSAS or a manualized control condition: Supportive Treatment for Addiction Recovery (STAR).
Treatment was conducted in community-based outpatient clinics and a Veterans Affairs medical center in Baltimore, Md.
Participants were 129 stabilized outpatients meeting DSM criteria for drug dependence (cocaine, heroin, or cannabis) and serious mental illness: 39.5% met DSM-IV criteria for schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder; 55.8%, for major affective disorders; and the remainder met criteria for severe and persistent mental illness and other Axis I disorders.
Both treatments were administered by trained health care professionals in small groups, twice a week for 6 months. The BTSAS program is a social learning intervention that includes motivational interviewing, a urinalysis contingency, and social skills training. The control condition, STAR, is a supportive group discussion treatment.
Main Outcome Measure
The primary outcome measure was urinalysis results from twice-weekly treatment sessions.
The BTSAS program was significantly more effective than STAR in percentage of clean urine test results, survival in treatment, and attendance at sessions. The BTSAS program also had significant effects on important community-functioning variables, including hospitalization; money available for living expenses; and quality of life.
The BTSAS program is an efficacious treatment. Further work needs to be done to increase the proportion of eligible patients who are able to become engaged in treatment.