Much research on treatment of substance use disorders (SUDs) focuses on reducing symptoms like depression and cravings. However, a growing body of literature examines the role of grit, gratitude, happiness, and other positive psychological constructs, including optimism.
Dispositional optimism—the forward‐thinking expectation that good things will happen—has been associated with enhanced psychological well‐being across various health domains.
Now, researchers at McLean Hospital have conducted the first study of optimism among individuals entering short‐term inpatient SUD treatment. They determined that optimism scores can be quite low in that patient population, and in The American Journal on Addictions, they suggest that treatment planning may benefit from efforts to build up or bolster a sense of optimism.
The authors are Scott E. Provost, MM, MSW, research associate in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Roger D. Weiss, MD, chief of McLean’s Division of Alcohol, Drugs, and Addiction and director of the Alcohol, Drug, and Addiction Clinical Research Program, and colleagues.
Between June 2017 and July 2018, the researchers enrolled 355 adult inpatients who were asked to complete a 20- to 30‐minute battery of questionnaires on tablet devices. The main variable of interest was the optimism subscale of the Life Orientation Test-Revised.
Other self-report measures were:
- The Demographic and Smoking Questionnaire
- The Brief Addiction Monitor
- The Craving Scale
- The Overall Anxiety Severity and Impairment Scale (OASIS)
- An opioid overdose questionnaire created by the research group
Characteristics of the Cohort
342 participants completed the Life Orientation Test-Revised and were included in the analyses. The mean age of the cohort was 39 (range, 18–71), 59% were male, 43% were employed full-time, 22% were married or cohabiting, and 76% had at least some college education.