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Exacerbation of psychiatric symptoms during substance use disorder treatment.

Ilgen MA, Moos RH. Exacerbation of psychiatric symptoms during substance use disorder treatment. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.). 2006 Dec 1; 57(12):1758-64.

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OBJECTIVE: This study examined psychiatric symptom exacerbation (or deterioration) among patients treated for substance use disorders. The study examined several questions. What is the prevalence of deterioration during residential treatment? Compared with patients who show improvement in psychiatric symptoms, do those with deterioration of symptoms report poorer functioning during treatment and one year after treatment entry? Do patients who experience deterioration of symptoms one year after treatment entry enter treatment with more problems and poorer coping skills? Is the prevalence of deterioration associated with treatment orientation, and do patients whose psychiatric symptoms deteriorate view the treatment environment more negatively than patients whose symptoms improve? METHODS: A total of 3,322 male patients were recruited at 15 residential substance abuse treatment programs in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system between 1992 and 1995. On the basis of changes in psychiatric symptoms during treatment, these patients were categorized as having either deteriorated or improved psychiatric symptoms. Patients whose symptoms deteriorated were compared with a matched group of patients with improved symptoms. RESULTS: A total of 426 patients (13 percent) reported a worsening of psychiatric symptoms during treatment. Compared with patients in the improved group (N = 426), patients in the deteriorated group reported more psychiatric problems and substance use one year after treatment. Patients in the deteriorated group were more likely to have a psychotic diagnosis, lower self-efficacy, and more reliance on coping by expression of emotions and to view the treatment experience more negatively. CONCLUSIONS: Thirteen percent of the patients experienced an exacerbation of psychiatric symptoms during residential substance use disorder treatment. Improved monitoring procedures, such as regular assessments for changes in psychiatric symptoms, are needed to routinely obtain information about declines in psychiatric conditions during treatment.

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