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Some Drunk Drivers May Require Greater Intervention

Many have history of drug abuse, psychiatric problems

THURSDAY, March 29 (HealthDay News) -- People undergoing mandated counseling because of a driving while intoxicated (DWI) offense often have a history of drug abuse or psychiatric problems and may require more extensive intervention to reduce recidivism and drinking, according to a report in the April issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Rebekka S. Palmer, Ph.D., and colleagues from Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., examined the predictive value of drug use and psychiatric diagnoses among 290 first-time DWI offenders undergoing a 10-week group counseling program.

The researchers found that 42 percent of subjects had a lifetime history of drug abuse or dependence and 30 percent had a lifetime history of anxiety or mood disorder. The drug abuse group reported higher alcohol consumption, lower coping confidence, greater readiness to change, and more alcohol, drug and legal problems than other subjects. The psychiatric group reported a greater readiness to change, a higher level of psychological distress and lower coping confidence than others.

Although the drug abuse group reduced their drinking frequency after counseling, this was not sustained at one-year follow-up. The group intervention was less effective at helping the psychiatric group reduce the negative consequences of drinking, the report indicates.

"Results suggest that a psychiatric diagnosis might guide the intervention and aftercare planning for DWI offenders to reduce recidivism and drinking," Palmer and colleagues conclude.

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