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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2002 Jun 1;67(1):13-26.

Dialectical behavior therapy versus comprehensive validation therapy plus 12-step for the treatment of opioid dependent women meeting criteria for borderline personality disorder.

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  • 1Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics, Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Box 351525, Seattle, WA 98195-1525, USA.


We conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate whether dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a treatment that synthesizes behavioral change with radical acceptance strategies, would be more effective for heroin-dependent women with borderline personality disorder (N = 23) than Comprehensive Validation Therapy with 12-Step (CVT + 12S), a manualized approach that provided the major acceptance-based strategies used in DBT in combination with participation in 12-Step programs. In addition to psychosocial treatment, subjects also received concurrent opiate agonist therapy with adequate doses of LAAM (thrice weekly; modal dose 90/90/130 mg). Treatment lasted for 12 months. Drug use outcomes were measured via thrice-weekly urinalyses and self-report. Three major findings emerged. First, results of urinalyses indicated that both treatment conditions were effective in reducing opiate use relative to baseline. At 16 months post-randomization (4 months post-treatment), all participants had a low proportion of opiate-positive urinalyses (27% in DBT; 33% in CVT + 12S). With regard to between-condition differences, participants assigned to DBT maintained reductions in mean opiate use through 12 months of active treatment while those assigned to CVT + 12S significantly increased opiate use during the last 4 months of treatment. Second, CVT + 12S retained all 12 participants for the entire year of treatment, compared to a 64% retention rate in DBT. Third, at both post-treatment and at the 16-month follow-up assessment, subjects in both treatment conditions showed significant overall reductions in level of psychopathology relative to baseline. A noteworthy secondary finding was that DBT participants were significantly more accurate in their self-report of opiate use than were those assigned to CVT + 12S.

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