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Salud mental

Print version ISSN 0185-3325

Abstract

FLORES MARES, Marlene  and  BARRAGAN TORRES, Lydia. Maintenance of training on refusal skills in cronic users of alcohol and drugs: a case study. Salud Ment [online]. 2010, vol.33, n.1, pp.47-55. ISSN 0185-3325.

In Mexico, alcohol and drug consumption has been a social problem for many years. Epidemiological studies show that moderate-to-high alcohol consumption has persisted in recent years, whereas in the case of illegal drugs consumption has become more widespread in both men and women. In fact, there is a tendency for consumption rates to level out between men and women, especially regarding legal drugs. Although most users are moderate consumers, between 5-10% are chronic consumers. It is necessary for these people to have access to a range of treatments that incorporate a system of examination and systematization. Consequently, in Mexico it is necessary to create new programs with a methodological structure that makes it possible to assess whether they assist in curtailing this social problem. One program that has proven to be effective is the Daily Satisfaction Program (DSP), which is based on the Community Reinforcement Approach (CRA). CRA is notable as one of the most successful programs in helping chronic users of legal or illegal drugs in the United States to give up substance abuse. In Mexico, it was necessary to modify some of the elements of DSP in order to adapt it to our culture, but it has encouraged a significant reduction in consumption patterns among participating users. This is an intensive program that includes several components, due to the serious nature of the problem to be tackled. However, it is necessary to carry out a systematized assessment of each of these components that foster in the user not only a reduction in consumption but also an increase in the satisfaction found in day-to-day activities. In Mexican culture, there are strong social pressures that affect consumption. Consequently the refuse-to-consume component is one of the most important, as it provides the user with the necessary strategies to be able to decline in a situation with peer pressure and in those moments when impulsive thoughts occur that might trigger the consumption response in the subject. The refuse-to-consume skills that were assessed in users were: body language, assertive refusal, suggesting alternatives, changing the subject of conversation, offering an explanation, suspending interaction, confronting the offerer, and changing impulsive thoughts by using cognitivist restructuring. Some investigators have detected a correlation between high consumption levels and a low degree of self-efficacy in refusing consumption. According to this theory, low self-efficacy in refusing consumption is the most accurate indicator of consumption behavior and makes it possible to discriminate between different types of user. High self-efficacy in refusing consumption is associated with less frequent episodes of consumption. With regard to motivation, these authors suggest that better self-efficacy in refusing consumption when offered the substance or in response to impulsive thoughts has an influence on the decision to consume or not to consume. In order to achieve a higher degree of self-efficacy in refuse-to-consume skills, it is necessary to control certain body responses that denote the desire or wish to consume. Some of these responses are: avoidance of eye contact, trembling, stuttering, blushing, sweating, palpitations, etc. The physiological responses associated with consumption are still displayed after the user has been through a period of non-consumption. They may be triggered by words associated with consumption or by watching videos of people who are consuming. Responses of this kind may be explained from a classical conditioning viewpoint, whereby a given stimulus provokes a given type of response. To explain what elicits, maintains, and increases the consumption of alcoholic drinks, three models of conditioning have been posited: the conditioned withdrawal model, the compensatory response model, and the conditioned motivational model. These models are based on an analysis of alcohol consumption situations with the aim of identifying the related variables. The model that most clearly explains alcohol consumption as a conditioned response is conditioned withdrawal. According to this model, in the case of people who have a history of alcohol dependence the stimuli associated with alcohol consumption (visual, olfactory, and auditory) provoke physiological responses such as salivation, trembling hands, or sweating. Alcohol consumption reduces these responses, which the subject is averse to. Users learn that, when they are offered a drink or drugs (the stimulus), they should accept it (the response). The aim of refuse-to-consume skills is to teach them to change their response to the stimulus, in other words, to teach users the necessary skills so that they learn to say no. When people are in the process of changing their consumption patterns by learning refusal skills and they experience high-risk situations, it is very probable that on the first few occasions they will exhibit a behavior that shows they are feeling insecure or anxious, such as avoiding eye contact with the person offering them the substance, stuttering, mumbling, not speaking with a decisive tone of voice, sweating, or having shaky hands. These responses make the offerer doubt whether the individual wishes to give up consuming, so he or she is more likely to insist and encourage a relapse in the user. Consequently, it is necessary to teach users how to react to these offers by relaxing and behaving assertively. This can be achieved by applying refuse-to-consume skills. Relaxation produces emotional effects that are the exact opposite of anxiety and which may be used therapeutically in everyday situations. Thus, it is less likely that the person offering the substance will follow up a refusal by repeating the offer, and the user may then take control of the situation and feel more secure. Peer pressure constitutes a high-risk factor that causes many users to relapse. It consists of direct or indirect pressure from other individuals or social groups who exert an influence on the user. In the case of direct pressure, the contact is personal, the offer involves verbal interaction, and the offerer is insistent that the user should consume the substance. In the case of indirect peer pressure, the user responds by watching other people use the substance in question. Often peers do not understand that the user has made a decision to quit and are insistent that he or she should continue to consume; the user also frequently feels that justification should be provided when refusing an offer. In reality, such an explanation is not necessary in most cases. It is frequently the case that when the user is with family members or close friends, they may question the refusal. For this reason, it is important for the user to preempt this reaction by asking friends and family members for support as a first step in the recovery process. The user must also interpret events, impulses, and emotions rationally, bearing in mind the negative consequences of consuming and the benefits of being sober or drug-free. Consequently, the user needs to learn to say no to him- or herself whenever temptation arises in the form of thoughts or desires. The user must confront them and change them into positive thoughts that favor his or her wellbeing and are unrelated to consumption. The objective of this study was to assess the degree of aptitude attained in refuse-to-consume skills by four chronic drug users in the Daily Satisfaction Program (DSP). Each user performed an evaluation of the high-risk situations in which consumption might occur as a result of peer pressure, and carried out a behavioral test in which the skills learnt were put to use. Subsequently, the users identified their impulsive thoughts and carried out an exercise in which the therapist repeated out loud the impulsive thoughts and the user replaced them with positive thoughts oriented toward reversing the decision to consume. These exercises were recorded and evaluated by two DSP therapists. Results indicate a high level of skill in refusing consumption in the face of external and internal pressure. Users also put these skills into practice in real-life situations, thereby reducing their episodes of consumption or maintaining abstinence.

Keywords : Maintenance; evaluation; refusal; skills; consumption.

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