NIH Study Suggests Kids Should Be Part of Treatment for Moms Fighting Substance Use

NIH Study Suggests Kids Should Be Part of Treatment for Moms Fighting Substance Use

A Study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that family therapy leads to faster recovery

Mothers in therapy for drug and alcohol use recover faster if their children take part in their treatment sessions, according to a first-of-its-kind study.

An article in Medical News Today noted that researchers found that women who were in family therapy - which included their 8- to 16-year-old children - showed a quicker decline in alcohol, marijuana and cocaine use over 18 months compared to mothers who were in individual therapy.

This is the first study to examine the effectiveness of family therapy for mothers who are substance users, said Natasha Slesnick, lead author of the study and professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University.

"Interpersonal stress, especially within the family, has been shown to be an important factor in drug and alcohol abuse," Slesnick said. "So it makes sense that having mothers and children working together in therapy can help moms with substance use problems do better over time.

"Family therapy is not generally part of the treatment options for substance-using mothers, but this study suggests it should be."

Slesnick conducted the study with Jing Zhang, a postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State. The study appears in the current issue of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

The study involved 183 mothers who were seeking outpatient treatment and met diagnostic criteria for having an alcohol or drug use disorder. All had at least one biological child aged 8 to 16.

Family therapy is probably more helpful to moms battling most substance use issues than individual therapy because it deals with the family stresses that contribute to drug and alcohol use, she said.

The researchers hoped that assessing differences in the mother-child interaction before and after treatment would help them determine whether changes in these family dynamics were the key to the success of family therapy, but the results did not confirm that link. Slesnick said she still believes the link is there, but that there weren't enough subjects in the study to prove it.

Preliminary data from upcoming studies by the researchers suggests that family therapy is not only good for the mothers - it helps their children's mental health, as well.

Findings were originally posted in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Addiction is a family disease that stresses the family to the breaking point, impacts the stability of the home, the family's unity, mental health, physical health, finances, and overall family dynamics. To learn more, please click here.

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