Positive Thinking Helped Mentally Ill Cut Alcohol Use


SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. — Enhancing positive thinking may be the best way to help severely mentally ill alcohol abusers reduce their dependence on alcohol, a State University of New York at Buffalo study suggests.

Clara M. Bradizza, Ph.D., and her associates at the Research Institute on Addictions at the State University of New York at Buffalo studied the relationship between coping behaviors and substance abuse recovery in 171 patients with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia-spectrum disorder. Participants came from a university-affiliated, mental health center, dual-diagnosis treatment program.

At the completion of 6 months of substance abuse treatment, they were asked which of four coping strategies they used most to avoid alcohol relapse:

▸ Positive thinking (e.g., “Thinking how much better off I am without drinking”)

▸ Negative thinking (e.g., “Thinking of the mess I've got myself in because of drinking”)

▸ Avoidance/distraction (e.g., “Keeping away from people who drink”)

▸ Seeking social support (e.g., “Going to an AA meeting”)

Positive thinking was negatively related to the total number of drinks over the previous 60 days, the percentage of days patients consumed alcohol, and the average number of drinks during the 60-day period, and was positively related to the percentage of days abstinent from alcohol, Dr. Bradizza and her associates reported at the annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism.

In other words, participants who drew on positive thinking most often during their recovery were doing a better job of reducing their alcohol consumption.

Negative thinking was associated with higher rates of drinking on two outcome measures: total number of drinks during the 60-day period and average number of drinks over the 60-day period.

Social support was marginally correlated with a reduction in drug use and abstinence from drugs, although the researchers said the connections need “further exploration.”

“Overall, these results indicate that alcohol-specific coping strategies may be a productive avenue of research aimed at improving treatments for seriously mentally ill individuals diagnosed with an alcohol or drug-use disorder,” the authors concluded in a poster presented at the meeting.

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