Barriers to addiction treatment among formerly incarcerated adults with substance use disorders [2018]

Addiction treatment improves substance use and criminal recidivism outcomes among justice-involved individuals with substance use disorders, but is underutilized. Although information exists regarding barriers to addiction treatment among individuals with substance use disorders more generally, less is known about barriers among individuals with previous justice involvement. The purpose of this pilot study was to describe barriers to addiction treatment in a sample of adults with a substance use disorder who participated in a pilot trial of brief interventions and were recently released from jail.

Incarcerated individuals who were arrested for an alcohol- or drug-related crime and reported moderate or high alcohol use on the ASSIST (n = 28; 96.4% men) were recruited for a pilot trial of brief interventions to reduce substance use, which were delivered just prior to release from jail. After their release, participants completed the Barriers to Treatment Inventory (BTI), which included 25 numerical items and one open-ended question on additional barriers that provided qualitative data. We described frequency of quantitative responses and qualitatively coded open-ended data using seven previously identified domains of the BTI.

The most commonly reported barriers assessed quantitatively were items related to Absence of Problem: “I do not think I have a problem with drugs” (42.8%), Privacy Concerns: “I do not like to talk about my personal life with other people” (35.8%), and Admission Difficulty: “I will have to be on a waiting list for treatment” (28.6%). Items related to Negative Social Support (e.g., “Friends tell me not to go to treatment”) were rarely endorsed in this sample. Responses to the open-ended question also related to Absence of Problem, Privacy Concerns, and Admission Difficulty. Additional categories of barriers emerged from the qualitative data, including Ambivalence and Seeking Informal Assistance.

In this small sample of adults with a substance use disorder recently released from jail, barriers to treatment were frequently endorsed. Future research on larger samples is needed to understand barriers to treatment specific to justice-involved populations. Clinicians may consider using open-ended questions to explore and address barriers to addiction treatment among individuals with current or recent justice involvement.

Mandy D. Owens, Jessica A. Chen, Tracy L. Simpson, Christine Timko, Emily C. Williams

Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, December 2018, 13:19