Objective: Patients with concomitant psychiatric and substance use disorders are commonly assigned representative payees or case managers to help manage their funds, but money management has not been conceptualized as a theory-based treatment. This randomized clinical trial was conducted to determine the effect of a money management-based therapy, advisor-teller money manager (ATM), on substance abuse or dependence.
Methods: Ninety patients at a community mental health center who had a history of cocaine or alcohol abuse or dependence were assessed after random assignment to 36 weeks of ATM (N=47) or a control condition in which use of a financial workbook was reviewed (N=43). Patients assigned to ATM were encouraged to deposit their funds into a third-party account, plan weekly expenditures, and negotiate monthly budgets. Substance use calendars and urine toxicology tests were collected every other week for 36 weeks and again 52 weeks after randomization.
Results: Patients assigned to ATM had significantly more negative toxicologies for cocaine metabolite over time than patients in the control group, and treating clinicians rated ATM patients as significantly more likely to be abstinent from illicit drugs. Self-reported abstinence from alcohol did not significantly differ between groups. Unexpectedly, patients assigned to ATM were more likely to be assigned a representative payee or a conservator than control participants during the follow-up period (ten of 47 versus two of 43). One patient in ATM assaulted the therapist when his check had not arrived.
Conclusions: ATM is an efficacious therapy for the treatment of cocaine abuse or dependence among people with concomitant psychiatric illness but requires protection of patient autonomy and staff safety.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00536900.