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Effectiveness of Motivational Interviewing for young people engaging in problematic substance use

Feb 1, 2019

Some time ago, Orygen produced an “Evidence Summary” of the “Effectiveness of Motivational Interviewing for Young People Engaging in Problematic Substance Use” that we think is worth re-sharing. The summary provides an easy to understand overview of Motivational Interviewing (MI), including contemporary changes to MI techniques and a review of the evidence base for use with young people (12-25 years).  

Regarding the effectiveness of MI for young people using alcohol, a systematic review indicated that young people who received MI did better than those who received a comparison intervention (e.g. assessment only, education or information only or an Alcoholics Anonymous abstinence program) in both the short and longer term. However, the changes were not clinically meaningful. For example, young people who received MI had slightly lower alcohol consumption (12.5 drinks per week versus 13.7), with fewer days drinking (2.5 versus 2.7 days per week) at four month follow up.  Although the change was not clinically significant, from a harm reduction approach, a reduction in use using MI, can still be considered a step in the right direction.

A meta-analysis investigating the effectiveness of MI for young people using illicit substances (cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy) found that MI was no more effective than control interventions (treatment as usual, education or information only) in reducing young people’s substance use.  However, MI was more effective in changing young people’s attitudes toward substance use, including their intention to use substances, readiness to change and beliefs about the effects of substances.

Overall, the evidence suggests that MI techniques are best placed within a broader biopsychosocial harm reduction treatment approach to young people's AOD use.

Go to the “Effectiveness of Motivational Interviewing for Young People Engaging in Problematic Substance Use”