A combination of brief interactions with primary care providers and follow-up coaching calls may keep psychoactive drug use from becoming an addiction, according to a study published in the November 2015 issue of Addiction. 

Patients receiving the intervention reduced their risky drug use—the use of illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine or the misuse of prescription medications, without the physiological or psychological signs of addiction—by 33%.

Lead author Lillian Gelberg, MD, and colleagues studied an intervention in which clinicians provided 3 to 4 minutes of advice on quitting or reducing drug use, which was followed by a 2-minute “video doctor” message, an educational booklet, and 2 to 6 weeks later, 2 or fewer coaching sessions over the telephone for 20 to 30 minutes. The initial conversation with the primary care provider discussed drug addiction as a chronic brain disease, the physical and mental effects of drug use, and how reducing or quitting drugs can prevent addiction whereas use of multiple drugs can lead to addiction. 

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The study included 334 individuals: 171 in the intervention group and 163 in the control group. Mean age was 41.7 years, 62.9% were male, and 37.7% were white. After 3 months, the intervention group reported that they used drugs an average of 3.5 fewer days in the previous month, compared with the control group.