Harm reduction treatment helped people experiencing homelessness and alcohol use disorder reduce their drinking and improve their health–even if they didn’t quit drinking alcohol.
In a randomized clinical trial, a research team led by Washington State University psychology professor Susan Collins studied more than 300 people from three Seattle homeless shelters and programs. Participants were randomly assigned to four groups receiving different services: the first group received behavioral harm reduction treatment, which is a form of collaborative counseling that does not require sobriety or drinking reduction, plus an anti-craving medication called naltrexone; the second had the counseling and a placebo; the third, the counseling alone; and the fourth served as a control group receiving regular services.
Many of the study participants had multiple goals, only some of which involved reducing drinking. As might be expected, the most common goal was finding more stable housing, but other goals included re-connecting with family, finding work and engaging in hobbies they once enjoyed.