April 28, 2010

Research shows success of meth treatment model

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- For methamphetamine addicts, jobs are a lifeline.

“Those who are already employed at the beginning of treatment or who get jobs while going through it have a better chance of good treatment outcomes -- that’s pretty exciting,” said D. Shane Koch of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Rehabilitation Institute.

“We’ve known for some time that treatment predicts employment success, but we usually tell folks in treatment that they need to dedicate themselves to treatment and not work or look for work until it’s over. One thing we thing we’ve learned from this project is that employment success also predicts treatment success.”

For the last three years, Koch has overseen the ongoing assessment of a federally funded, intensive, meth addiction treatment program offered to residents of Franklin and Williamson counties through The H Group. Called “Matrix of Hope,” it drew on a mix of therapeutic techniques that included reshaping thinking and behavior, positive reinforcement, family involvement, 12-step programming (adapted from the classic developed by Alcoholics Anonymous) and urine monitoring. The project wrapped up in January.

Because funding requirements called for a gauge of the program’s effectiveness, an Institute team consisting of Koch, former post-doctoral fellow S. J. Davis and graduate students Ann M. Johnson-Melvin and Alice W. Mbugua collected and analyzed information from Matrix clients both before they entered treatment and six months later. Of 227 clients admitted to the program, nearly 86 percent completed the follow-up survey.

Ninety-seven percent of these had stopped using the drug, the team wrote in its final report.

“We were able to show that with this program, people can recover from meth addiction,” said Johnson-Melvin, who has done the project’s day-to-day assessment work since early 2008.

“When 97 percent report abstinence from methamphetamine at their six-month follow-up, that’s significant. It gives people who may not believe in the treatment process or who are so fearful of the meth crisis some hope.”

The researchers also saw a 224 percent increase in the number of clients working full time.

“Work is so important,” Koch said. “Employment means that people rejoin their communities as productive, independent members.”

Johnson-Melvin, whose dissertation focuses on the connection between work and the completion of treatment, said she is still working with the data and so cannot at this point supply exact numbers.

“However, we can say there is a trend,” she noted.

Lastly, 97 percent avoided new arrests.

“We saw that providing treatment improves outcomes in multiple dimensions,” Koch said.

“The most important piece of this project has been that we have demonstrated you can have positive outcomes even with the most severe dependency issues. The people we looked at had chronic, long-term problems with drug addiction.”

While the program ran for just three years, the fact that researchers monitored outcomes using collected data to do so indicates the treatment model works.

“The evidence shows it -- it’s not just our say-so,” Johnson said.