Clinically relevant characteristics associated with early treatment drug use versus abstinence

Addict Sci Clin Pract. 2014 Apr 4;9(1):6. doi: 10.1186/1940-0640-9-6.


Background: This study describes early treatment drug use status and associated clinical characteristics in a diverse sample of patients entering outpatient substance abuse psychosocial counseling treatment. The goal is to more fully characterize those entering treatment with and without active use of their primary drug in order to better understand associated treatment needs and resilience factors.

Methods: We examined baseline data from a NIDA Clinical Trials Network (CTN) study (Web-delivery of Treatment for Substance Use) with an all-comers sample of patients (N = 494) entering 10 outpatient treatment centers. Patients were categorized according to self-identified primary drug of abuse (alcohol, cocaine/stimulants, opioids, marijuana) and by baseline drug use status (positive/negative) based on urine testing or self-reports of recent use (alcohol). Characteristics were examined by primary drug and early use status.

Results: Classified as drug-negative were 84%, 76%, 62%, and 33% of primary opioid, stimulant, alcohol, and marijuana users; respectively. Drug-positive versus -negative patients did not differ on demographics or rates of substance abuse/dependence diagnoses. However, those negative for active use had better physical and mental health profiles, were less likely to be using a secondary drug, and were more likely to be attending 12-step self-help meetings.

Conclusions: Early treatment drug abstinence is common among substance users entering outpatient psychosocial counseling programs, regardless of primary abused drug. Abstinence (by negative UA) is associated with better health and mental health profiles, less secondary drug use, and more days of 12-step attendance. These data highlight differential treatment needs and resiliencies associated with early treatment drug use status.

Trial registration: NCT01104805.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation*
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Early Medical Intervention*
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Internet
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (U.S.)
  • Patient Dropouts*
  • Prognosis
  • Self-Help Groups
  • Substance Abuse Detection
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Temperance* / psychology
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted
  • United States


  • Illicit Drugs

Associated data