Social Work and Counselling
Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Meaning-centered Approach in Relapse Prevention for Young Psychotropic Substance Abusers in Hong Kong: A Randomized Controlled Trial
Starting Date
Expected Completion Date
Principal Investigator
Dr. TAM Hau Lin Cherry

Despite a recent downward trend of reported drug abusers, psychotropic substance abuse among adolescents and young adults is still a grave concern in Hong Kong. The seemingly less apparent dependence symptoms and bodily signs have lowered their help seeking motivation until serious harms are observed to their health and everyday life. In 2017, nearly 80% of the abusers reported to take drugs at home or at a friend's home. Among young drug abusers aged under 21, cocaine and cannabis use are increasing. Therefore, the number of drug abusers in Hong Kong has not simply decreased but has in fact been distorted by more concealed patterns of abuse. Drug intervention and prevention is indeed a global concern more than a local issue. However, regardless of the services rendered and the treatment programmes employed, drug relapse and longer-term sustainable effect of the programmes are still a challenge all over the world. Against this situation, meaning-centered approach for drug relapse prevention is recently introduced as effective and integrative to work synergistically with other approaches to guide drug abusers in abstinence with clear meaning and purpose in life even living with sufferings and better coping with resilience from further relapse. Empirical studies on this approach are still evolving even in the West. It will be practically contributory if its efficacy and feasibility for drug relapse can be firstly examined in a Chinese context in Hong Kong. This proposed study adopts a randomized controlled trial with pre-test, post-test and 3rd month and 6th month follow-up evaluations. A total of 200 recovering participants aged between 14 and 35 will be recruited from 15 community-based anti-drug rehabilitation service centres and randomly assigned into four arms of the experimental and control conditions including meaning- centered approach (MCA), mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP), cognitive-behavioural approach (CBT), and treatment as usual (TAU). Eventually, 5 groups with 8 sessions in each programme will be run over a period of two and a half years. In comparison with other three programmes, the short and sustainable effects of the MCA programme in (1) enhancingparticipants' meaning in life and positive psychology in terms of optimism, hope and resilience, (2) reducing their severity of substance use and cravings for drugs, and (3) raising their supportive relationship and overall sense of self-efficacy in refusing drugs will be assessed quantitatively with a self-administrated questionnaire and qualitatively with indepth interviews. Its integrative and synergistic effect with mindfulness and cognitive-behavioural approaches will also be explored. It is envisaged that this MCA programme, if demonstrated to be effective, will not only be important in the knowledge and practice dimensions, but also likely be used for Chinese in the local and international levels.