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What makes them relapse?

What makes them relapse?

RIA research teams look to literature on addictive behavior

Published: April 20, 2006

Reporter Contributor

Two research teams at UB’s Research Institute on Addictions recently explored the scientific literature focusing on relapse to addictive behavior. The first team reviewed studies of relapse to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and the second team, the differences between men and women who relapse to alcohol and drug abuse.

The RIA researchers concluded that because those who drive under the influence (DUI) are such a diverse group, researchers and clinicians should focus on subgroups that share common characteristics to improve prevention and intervention. They also noted a need to integrate better criminal-justice and rehabilitation approaches to reduce DUI relapse.

When it comes to relapse to alcohol and drug abuse, they found differences between men and women. Women were less likely—and men more likely—to experience relapse to drug abuse. Marriage plays a different role in alcohol relapse for men and women. Alcoholic women seemed to be put at risk for relapse by marriage, marital stress and conflict. Alcoholic men, on the other hand, appeared to be protected from relapse by marriage.

Both research reviews appeared in the March issue of Clinical Psychology Review.

Driving under the influence is a major public health problem. Although there has been a decrease in fatality rates over the past two decades, there were 17,401 alcohol-related crash fatalities in 2003 alone.

Thomas H. Nochajski, associate professor in the School of Social Work and associate research scientist at RIA, and colleague Paul R. Stasiewicz, RIA senior research scientist and director of RIA’s Clinical Research Center, looked at DUI research hoping to identify a new focus for research, treatment, the legal system and policymakers.

“We reviewed the data on DUI relapse, the characteristics of first-time and repeat DUI offenders, as well as studies that evaluated the impact of legal sanctions and rehabilitation programs on subsequent DUI behavior,” Nochajski explained. “What we found was that DUI offenders are a diverse group of people.”

They found that research and treatment that relied on only one or two characteristics of offenders to explain DUI relapse—for example, driving characteristics, age or socioeconomic status—did not offer a sufficient understanding of or response to the diversity of people convicted of repeat DUIs. Nochajski and Stasiewicz concluded that to understand DUI relapse as a public-health issue, researchers, health providers and policymakers should focus on the interplay of legal, social and psychological factors to describe, explain and reduce relapse.

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