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  • PRIME For Life Self-Report Study Published

PRIME For Life Self-Report Study Published

PRIME For Life Self-Report Study Published

We are pleased to announce a new contribution to the literature in a 2012 publication about self-report data in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy.1

This investigation utilized two studies to examine how much drinking and drug use participants reported for the 30 days prior to attending PFL. Specifically, we wanted to see if people changed their answers after participating in PFL compared to what they said before participating—even though they were reporting on the same 30-day period both times.

The first study examined changes in self-report among 8,387 individuals convicted of impaired driving or other alcohol- or drug-related offenses in eight2 states who participated in PFL between 2006 and 2008. The primary hypothesis was that participants would report using more drugs and alcohol in the 30 days before the program (baseline use) when asked following the intervention compared to responses at preintervention. Results indicate many PFL participants changed the amount of baseline (the 30 days prior to intervention) substance use they reported—about a third reported more drinking, and 11.1% reported more drug use when asked postintervention compared to preintervention. The number changing their reports was larger when abstainers were removed. Of people who reported at least some drinking, 46.3% and 39.6% reported greater amounts of most and usual number of drinks, respectively, when asked at postintervention. Among drug users, 46.3% changed their reports at postintervention such that they reported heavier drug use.

In the second study, changes in self-reported baseline substance use between an intervention that explicitly targets motivation (PFL) and intervention as usual (IAU) were compared for 192 participants in North Carolina in 2007 and 2008. The hypothesis was that following PFL, participants would report greater baseline substance use compared to participants in the IAU. Although roughly the same percentage of PFL and IAU participants (50.0% and 48.8%) reported four or more drinks for peak drinking when asked at preintervention, when asked at postintervention, more PFL than IAU participants (67.4% versus 45.3%) reported drinking four or more during the 30 days before the intervention. Hence, some PFL participants were more likely to report drinking above the low-risk guidelines while, in contrast, IAU participants showed virtually no change. For the usual number of drinks and for marijuana/drug use, both intervention groups demonstrated increases in reported baseline use with no significant differences between the two.

Overall, we found that while many clients did not alter their reports of the amounts of alcohol and drugs they used in the 30 days prior to baseline, a noticeable segment did. Most often the change was at postintervention, reporting greater baseline amounts. One of the major implications of this investigation concerns the timing of assessments and referral for treatment. Particularly with arrests for driving under the influence (DUI), courts typically order assessments prior to assigning people to either treatment or indicated prevention. However, the wisdom of that approach depends on when the most accurate self-reports can be gathered. If preintervention reports are more trustworthy, then the typical approach is sensible. However, if postintervention reports have greater accuracy, it may be more useful if offenders are referred to a motivationally-based intervention first. A better understanding of when the information gathered is likely to be most accurate could contribute to a more targeted and efficient use of treatment resources.

The PDF of this article is available online at

Questions can be directed to the PRI’s Executive Vice President, David Rosengren, who is the first author of the paper.

1Rosengren, D.B., Beadnell, B.A., Nason, M., Stafford, P.A., & Daugherty, R. (2012). Reports of past alcohol and drug use following participation in a motivation enhancing intervention: Implications for clinical assessment and program evaluation. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, & Policy. 7:19. [available at]

2Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Maine, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Utah