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Psychotherapy for Opiate Addicts:  Does It Help?

George E. Woody, MD; Lester Luborsky, PhD; A. Thomas McLellan, PhD; Charles P. O'Brien, MD, PhD; Aaron T. Beck, MD; Jack Blaine, MD; Ira Herman, MD; Anita Hole, PhD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1983;40(6):639-645. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1983.04390010049006.
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• Opiate addicts beginning a new treatment episode on a methadone maintenance program were offered random assignment to drug counseling alone or to counseling plus six months of either supportive-expressive psychotherapy or cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. Sixty percent of patients meeting the study criteria expressed an interest and 60% of these actually became engaged. One hundred ten subjects completed the study intake procedure and kept three or more appointments within the first six weeks of the project. Measures including standardized psychological tests, independent observer ratings, and continuous records of licit and illicit drug use were done at baseline and seven-month follow-up. All three treatment groups showed significant improvement, but patients receiving the additional psychotherapies showed improvement in more areas and to a greater degree than those who received counseling alone, and with less use of medication. More than a third of opiate addicts in our treatment program thus both were interested in professional psychotherapy and apparently benefitted from it. Certain administrative procedures appear necessary to maximize the chances that psychotherapy can be used effectively with drug-addicted patients.

(Arch Gen Psychiatry 1983;40:639-645)

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