A Randomized Trial of a Telecommunications Network for Pregnant Women Who Use Cocaine

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OBJECTIVESThe authors describe computer services designed to make patients better informed and more motivated to participate in treatment. Patients use these services through their touch-tone telephone; access to a home computer or a modem is not needed.METHODSThe authors tested the impact of these computer services on the management of 179 pregnant women who had used cocaine during pregnancy or 1 month before pregnancy (as reported by the woman). Patients were randomly assigned to control and experimental groups; only the experimental group had access to the computer services. Patients were enrolled during the prenatal period and followed for 6 months after the birth of a live child. Self-reported data on the subjects' participation in drug treatment programs, health status (using the SF-36), and addiction severity (using the addiction severity index) were collected. The computer collected data on the frequency of the use of the service. The dependent variables were participation in formal treatment during the course of the project, and drug and alcohol use at exit interview. Multiple and logistic regressions were used to identify the effects of the intervention after controlling for demographic and baseline variables.RESULTSData showed that poor, pregnant, undereducated clients who used drugs and lived in multiple residences could use the services; about one-third of clients used the services more than three times a week. Access to the service did not lead to significant change in patients' health status, drug use, or utilization of services. Use of the service did lead to significant changes in participation in drug treatment: subjects who used the service more than three times a week were 1.5 times more likely to participate in formal drug treatment than subjects who used the service less often. Participation in formal drug treatment, however, was not effective in reducing the drug or the alcohol use.CONCLUSIONSAlmost all patients used the computer services to some extent, but there seems to be a threshold after which the use of the services had a more positive impact.

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