NIH News Release
National Institute on Drug Abuse

Monday, June 14, 1999
3:00 p.m. EST

Contact: Beverly Jackson
Michelle Muth
(301) 443-6245

Combined Drug Counseling Approach Works in Treating Cocaine Addiction

Drug addiction treatment combining individual and group drug counseling reduced cocaine use more effectively than group drug counseling alone or in combination with cognitive or supportive-expressive psychotherapy, according to a study reported in the June 1999 issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry.

"These findings add enormously to the growing evidence that drug counseling can be extremely effective in treating drug addiction, and that combining therapeutic approaches works best for many cocaine addiction patients," said Dr. Alan I. Leshner, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health, which funded the research.

The new findings are from the multi-center NIDA Collaborative Cocaine Treatment Study, a cooperative clinical trial of several behavioral therapies for treating cocaine addiction.

A total of 487 patients nationwide were randomly assigned to receive 6 months of group drug counseling, either alone or in combination with individual drug counseling, supportive-expressive psychotherapy, or cognitive psythotherapy. In each month of the 6-month treatment, as well as 3 and 6 months after treatment ended, patients were assessed with the Addiction Severity Index Drug Use Composite. Patients' drug use was also monitored by weekly self-report and urine testing. The patients who received both group and individual drug counseling showed the greatest reduction in frequency of drug use. More than one third of these patients achieved three consecutive months of cocaine abstinence.

"The drug counseling provided in our study was intensive and of particularly high quality," says Dr. Paul Crits-Christoph, lead author of the study, from the University of Pennsylvania. "Treatment programs offering a similar type and level of counseling might have the best chances of success."

The study sites included: University of Pennsylvania; Brookside Hospital (Nashua, New Hampshire); Western Psychiatric Hospital and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh; and McLean Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Extramural scientists from NIDA also collaborated on the study. The University of Pennsylvania provided overall coordination for the project.

NIDA supports more than 85 percent of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute also carries out a large variety of programs to ensure the rapid dissemination of research information and its implementation in policy and practice. Fact sheets on health effects of drugs of abuse and other topics can be ordered free of charge in English and Spanish, by calling NIDA Infofax at 1-888-NIH-NIDA (-644-6432) or 1-888-TYY-NIDA (-889-6432) for the deaf. These fact sheets and further information on NIDA research and other activities can be found on the NIDA home page at