Can You Motivate Your Patient to Stop Alcohol or Drug Use?

Stop alcohol/drug usA patient confides to you details of alcohol or drug use.At first he tried drugs out of curiosity or to ease stress, anxiety or depression. She drank alcohol to have a good time or because her friends were doing it. Now the drug/alcohol use is causing problems at work, school or home, or in relationships. Sharing this information often signals readiness to change or to learn about options for stopping. How can you respond in a way that doesn’t sound judgmental?


First, acknowledge how difficult it was for your patient to share this information. "I'm glad you told me about this, even though I'm sure it was hard for you." Ask permission to offer advice. "May I give you information about some programs that are available?"

Early Intervention

Next, focus on early interventions to maximize your patient’s motivation. Research shows that initiating treatment within two weeks of your alcohol or drug dependency (AOD) diagnosis and following up with two more visits in the next 30 days will give your patient the support needed to choose the right treatment program. Support is essential to addiction recovery and requires encouragement, comfort, and guidance.

Encourage patients to begin treatment within two weeks of their office visit. The necessary services may not be available in your office, but programs of varying intensity are available in the community. As a start, give your patient the name of a clinician or clinic that specializes in AOD. Recommend that your patient attend a few outpatient visits to explore the available options. Emphasize to your patients that it is important to find the right fit and that they may need to try a few different clinicians before choosing one to work with. For help finding a psychiatrist, therapist or social worker, your patient should call the Emblem Behavioral Health Services Program at 1-888-447-2526, if they have a HIP-underwritten plan. For members with a GHI-underwritten plan should call the Behavioral Management Program at 1-800-692-2489.

The longer alcohol and drug abuse continues, the stronger the addiction becomes and the harder it is to treat. Assure your patients that change is possible with the right treatment and support.

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