Wednesday 18 September 2019

Testing for rehab success on cocaine users hailed as a success

A NEW psychological test can predict whether a cocaine addict is more likely to kick the habit during rehab, researchers have said.

A questionnaire has been devised to identify which users will turn up for treatment and whether their system would be free of the drug.

The test, drawn up by NUI Maynooth Professor of Psychology Dermot Barnes-Holmes, was used successfully in rehab trials in New York on 25 men and three women who had been using cocaine for about 15 years.

"Our system has far-reaching implications for the treatment of drug addiction," he said.

"Participants' beliefs about their substance abuse and the negative or positive consequences that follow, appear to have an impact on the success of their treatment - and these beliefs aren't currently being identified through standard drug abuse treatment.

"The study highlights that Irish researchers can export their solutions into the best research centres in North America, rather than always thinking of importing American solutions into Ireland."

The cocaine users, with an average age of 37, were given the new psychological test after enrolling in a six month outpatient programme at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University.

After answering questionnaires on their thoughts about cocaine craving and the consequences of cocaine use they also took two other tests, the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (Irap) and a Drug Stroop Protocol, which measured the reaction times of the participants.

The study, published in this month's The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, showed that if users had strong beliefs about positive effects of cocaine prior to treatment, the poorer the rehab results.

The Irap psychological test was devised to identify users' thoughts, feelings and beliefs that they might wish to conceal or of which they are not consciously aware.

Prof Barnes-Holmes was co-author of the study with an international team including psychologists from the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University in New York.

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