Readiness to change and the role of inpatient counseling for alcohol/substance abusing youth with major trauma

Michael Yonas, Deborah Baker, Edward E. Cornwell, David Chang, Judith Phillips, Jane Paradise, Michael Paradise, Erica Sutton, Arvand Elihu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The data regarding trauma recidivism among youth suggest that alcohol and/or substance abuse counseling should be an integral part of an injury prevention program in Level I trauma centers. Analysis of attitudes and motivation toward changing substance use is an important part of counseling. This study explores the willingness of a patient population at risk for recurrent injury to address their alcohol or substance use habits. Young patients (ages 15-24) admitted with major trauma and positive alcohol/toxicology screens to a Level I trauma center were offered a previously described “readiness-to-change” interview tool. Responses were analyzed using a modified methodology to identify those patients motivated toward curtailing subsequent use. From February 2002 to August 2003, 120 patients (study group) consented to be interviewed. Within the study group, 109 (91%) were male patients, 110 (92%) were black, 85 (71%) suffered penetrating trauma injuries, and 75 (63%) had dropped out of high school. According to their interview tool responses, 61 (87%) of those patients using alcohol and 63 (85%) of those patients using drug were either “contemplative” or “action oriented” toward addressing their substance use behaviors. Furthermore, 35 patients (29%) in the study group indicated an absolute willingness to address their alcohol/drug use. No patient accessed treatment resources provided once discharged. Although findings regarding the assessment of attitudes toward readiness to change among young drug/alcohol-using patients experiencing penetrating trauma were initially very encouraging, facilitating and engaging these patients in actual behavior changing activities was far more challenging. Further exploration into the existing barriers to accessing treatment services and cultivating attitudes toward changing substance use behaviors is necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)464-467
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Trauma
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Stages of change
  • Substance abuse
  • Violence prevention
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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