April 28, 2008

'Matrix of Hope' effective in helping meth addicts

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Methamphetamine addiction is a huge problem but not a hopeless one.

Researchers from Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Rehabilitation Institute report that after six months of treatment geared specifically toward meth addicts, 97.8 percent of them had stopped using the drug, and 95.7 percent had not been arrested again. The researchers also saw a 100 percent increase in employment, and 70.5 percent had stabilized their living conditions.

"These were people who typically had been immersed in the drug culture for a long time, using multiple substances, such as alcohol, marijuana and cocaine," said S. J. Davis, a post-doctoral fellow at the institute who analyzed much of the treatment outcome data.

"In addition, they may have had mental health issues — depression, anxiety, attention problems. Many were also unemployed, and some had had their children taken away from them."

The treatment program, paid for by a $1.5 million, three-year federal grant awarded in 2006, is offered through Franklin-Williamson Human Services in Marion with help from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Called "Matrix of Hope," it draws on the "matrix model," a mix of therapeutic techniques that includes reshaping thinking and behavior, positive reinforcement, family involvement, 12-step programming (adapted from the classic developed by Alcoholics Anonymous) and urine monitoring.

"It's fairly intensive," Davis said. "Most clients will go up to eight hours a week for group and individual treatment. But it's done on an outpatient basis so it doesn't have to interfere with their lives as much as going to an inpatient facility would.

"What's great about this is that it's free for clients. Long-term outpatient programs can be expensive."

For meth addicts, long term makes the difference.

"Meth users have unique needs," Davis noted. "Meth causes dependency in such an intense way psychologically that people need treatment longer than what typical outpatient therapy provides.

"The first sessions take about 16 weeks, although they may take longer if the clients haven't completed their primary goals. Aftercare can continue as long as 32 weeks, so altogether they could conceivably do 48 weeks."

Despite widespread myths about meth's power — such as the claim that only 5 percent of addicts can kick the habit for good — the addiction is treatable.

"Testing by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has shown the matrix model to be effective — we've seen that it works," Davis said.

A manual, developed in the 1980s by the Matrix Institute on Addictions in southern California, lays out the general steps to follow in treatment.

"Obviously, it has to be individualized to a particular client, but with a manual you can insure that counselors are not making up their own off-the-top-of-their-heads treatment approach," Davis said.

The Rehab Institute comes into the mix because of its expertise in evaluation.

"DCFS provides some referrals, Franklin-Williamson provides the treatment, and we look at the data and tell them if it's effective or not," Davis said. "We make a good team."

The treatment program has reached the halfway mark with its federal grant. The program provider is looking for other funds to keep it going.

"That's one of the reasons our role is so important," Davis said. "We can demonstrate that this is an effective program — funding sources are more likely to want to fund an effective program.

"And that's the ultimate goal. It would be a shame to have a successful program for three years and then close it down."

For more information about Matrix of Hope, call Franklin-Williamson Human Services at 618/997-5336 or write to the agency at 1307 W. Main St., Marion, Ill., 62959.