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Subst Use Misuse. 2008;43(12-13):1904-26. doi: 10.1080/10826080802297005.

Effectiveness of dual focus mutual aid for co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders: a review and synthesis of the "Double Trouble" in Recovery evaluation.

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  • 1Evaluation Center, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008-5237, USA.


Over 5 million adults in the United States have a co-occurring substance use disorder and serious psychological distress. Mutual aid (self-help) can usefully complement treatment, but people with co-occurring substance use and psychiatric disorders often encounter a lack of empathy and acceptance in traditional mutual aid groups. Double Trouble in Recovery (DTR) is a dual focus fellowship whose mission is to bring the benefits of mutual aid to persons recovering from co-occurring disorders. An evaluation of DTR was conducted by interviewing 310 persons attending 24 DTR meetings in New York City (NYC) in 1998 and following them up for 2 years, in 1999 and 2000. The evaluation produced 13 articles in 12 peer-reviewed journals, the main results of which are summarized here. The sample's characteristics were as follows: mean age, 40 years; women, 28%; black, 59%; white, 25%; Hispanic, 14%; never married, 63%; live in supported community residence, 53%; high school graduate or GED, 60%; arrested as adult, 63%; diagnoses of: schizophrenia, 39%; major depression, 21%; or bipolar disorder, 20%; currently prescribed psychiatric medication, 92%; primary substance used, current or past: cocaine/crack, 42%; alcohol 34%; or heroin, 11%. Overall, the findings indicate that DTR participation has both direct and indirect effects on several important components of recovery: drug/alcohol abstinence, psychiatric medication adherence, self-efficacy for recovery, and quality of life. The study also identified several "common" therapeutic factors (e.g., internal motivation and social support) and unique mutual aid processes (helper-therapy and reciprocal learning) that mediate the influence of DTR participation on recovery. For clinicians, these results underline the importance of fostering stable affiliation with specialized dual focus 12-step groups for their patients with co-occurring disorders, as part of a comprehensive recovery-oriented treatment approach.

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