Psychological Characteristics Predicting Substance Abuse Help-Seeking among Inmates




Fitek, Diana Jean

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This study of 392 (280 male and 112 female) jail inmates held on felony charges tested multiple psychological variables for their value in predicting help seeking for substance abuse problems during incarceration. The dichotomous dependent variable of help seeking was measured by whether or not inmates submitted a written request for one or more alcohol and drug services offered by the jail. Logistic regression analyses tested psychopathy, optimism, self-esteem, shame-proneness, guilt-proneness, externalization of blame, short-term gratification and treatment rejection, while controlling for treatment need. Psychopathy and treatment rejection were negatively predictive of help seeking. Additionally, gender was tested as a potential moderator of the relationship between each of these variables and help seeking. Only main effects were found, with women more likely than men to seek help for their substance abuse problems. Post-hoc analyses determined that presence of one or more symptoms of alcohol dependence had no effect on help seeking, whereas presence of one or more symptoms of drug dependence was highly predictive of help seeking. These findings underscore the importance of assessing substance dependence symptoms for inmates requesting treatment. Additionally, assessing for treatment rejection may be a way of identifying inmates in need of interventions to increase their motivation for treatment. Additional research is needed to explore possible barriers to help seeking during incarceration for both men and individuals with symptoms of alcohol dependence.



Gender, Jail, Substance Abuse, Psychopathy, Help-Seeking, Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI)