UCSF: Study Shows ‘Therapeutic Community’ Helps Kick High-Risk Behaviors
Drug users participating in "therapeutic community" treatment programs decreased "HIV-related high risk behavior," according to a study published in this month's issue of the journal AIDS. University of California-San Francisco researchers interviewed 261 group therapy patients at San Francisco residential treatment program Walden House, and found that program participants made positive behavior changes in both drug injection use and high-risk sex, increased monogamous sexual activity and decreased the number of multiple sexual partners. In addition, they grew "less likely to shoot up drugs with other people or use other people's syringes or needles." The therapeutic community model adopts a familial approach, as staff members assume a surrogate family role to "help clients abolish behaviors related to drug use, develop self-esteem and develop self-reliance," offering various types of counseling, educational training and social activities. Study co-author William Woods said, "We found that the longer the period of time spent in the treatment program, the less likelihood that a person would engage in the very high-risk behavior of needle-sharing ... and sex." In addition, the number of participants who had been tested for HIV or said they were interested in future testing increased after every follow-up interview. However, the study found that patients in treatment the longest were the least likely to use a needle exchange program. Woods speculated that this reluctance "may be related to the program's emphasis on abstinence. Those attempting to remain abstinent may not plan ahead when they do use, which would be required if a person was to use a needle exchange program." Participants were assigned to either the day or residential programs and included men and women, ages 18-53. Sixty-seven percent admitted addiction to cocaine, while 13% used heroin (UCSF release, 11/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.