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CAIS research: distraction in detox success

CAIS research: distraction in detox success

PATIENTS LESS DISTRACTED by recovery-related terms during computer testing are more likely to successfully complete detoxification treatment, research backed by CAIS has found.

Findings from the study – conducted at the Hafan Wen unit in Wrexham by Bangor University PhD researcher Hannah Rettie – suggest it may be possible to use the exercise to help assess the likelihood of sustaining abstinence.  

The same research, now published in the latest edition of journal Addictive Behaviours, found readiness-to-change questionnaires were not a reliable predictor of detox success.

A total of 45 people with an alcohol dependency took part in the study, completing both a computer task and a questionnaire.  Three months following detox, Hannah visited participants again to assess their progress.  


Attitude to change

Analysis of the results revealed that the lower the patient’s attentional bias towards positive, recovery-laden terms the greater their chance of success in detox.  Relapse was more likely amongst patients who were more distracted, as measured by the time they took to respond during the computer task.

Hannah’s research team had expected to find the opposite, and now believe that more research is required to explore the findings in detail.

It has already been established that people with alcohol dependency find pictures and words related to alcohol very distracting – and that the greater the bias towards these, the less likely they are to remain free of substances after detox. This new research suggests the same could also be true of distraction by positive, recovery-focused terms. 


Additional support

“Further research is needed to explore this predictor of change in more detail before it could be used in practice, but these findings are a step towards being able to predict individuals’ treatment outcomes after detox,” Hannah said.  

“Being able to predict someone’s likelihood of change could be useful information when evaluating treatments, and determining whether individuals need additional support after treatment.”

Previous research delivered through the partnership between Bangor University and CAIS examined factors which led patients to leave detox before the completion of their treatment.

Case notes relating to more than 500 patients were examined as part of the study.

It found that patients who chose to leave early were often seeking detoxification from misuse of drugs, lived closer to the unit, had a previous criminal conviction or convictions, and showed lower levels of engagement with the therapeutic programme.



Patients who were asked to leave after breaking unit rules demonstrated similar characteristics.  Often these individuals had not planned to begin the detox process – and had likely not been able to prepare for treatment appropriately.   

Negative attentional bias for positive recovery-related words as a predictor of treatment success among individuals with an alcohol use disorder was published as part of a Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2) research project supported by CAIS, led by Bangor University, and part-funded by Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys



May 11, 2018