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Subst Abus. 2016;37(1):209-14. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2015.1015701. Epub 2015 Mar 16.

Changes in psychiatric symptoms among persons with methamphetamine dependence predicts changes in severity of drug problems but not frequency of use.

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a Alcohol Research Group , Emeryville , California , USA.
b California Pacific Medical Center , San Francisco , California , USA.



Few studies have examined how changes in psychiatric symptoms over time are associated with changes in drug use and severity of drug problems. No studies have examined these relationships among methamphetamine (MA)-dependent persons receiving motivational interviewing within the context of standard outpatient treatment.


Two hundred seventeen individuals with MA dependence were randomly assigned to a standard single session of motivational interviewing (MI) or an intensive 9-session model of MI. Both groups received standard outpatient group treatment. The Addiction Severity Index (ASI) and timeline follow-back (TLFB) for MA use were administered at treatment entry and 2-, 4-, and 6-month follow-ups.


Changes in ASI psychiatric severity between baseline and 2 months predicted changes in ASI drug severity during the same time period, but not changes on measures of MA use. Item analysis of the ASI drug scale showed that psychiatric severity predicted how troubled or bothered participants were by their drug us, how important they felt it was for them to get treatment, and the number of days they experienced drug problems. However, it did not predict the number days they used drugs in the past 30 days. These associations did not differ between study conditions, and they persisted when psychiatric severity and outcomes were compared across 4- and 6-month time periods.


Results are among the first to track how changes in psychiatric severity over time are associated with changes in MA use and severity of drug problems. Treatment efforts targeting reduction of psychiatric symptoms among MA-dependent persons might be helpful in reducing the level of distress and problems associated with MA use but not how often it is used. There is a need for additional research describing the circumstances under which the experiences and perceptions of drug-related problems diverge from frequency of consumption.


Drug treatment; methamphetamine; motivational interviewing; psychiatric severity

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