I’ve been tracking down information about the BRENDA substance abuse treatment model over the last few weeks.  The questions for which I’ve been seeking answers are: 1) What is the BRENDA treatment model; and, 2) Does it work as well or better than other treatment models?  I wanted to learn about this model because I had run into the term in a few places, but none of them really described what it is.  So, it sounded like it may be helpful; I decided to dig up as much as I could….

First of all, it turns out that BRENDA isn’t some all-knowing doctor that figured out some really awesome new way to treat substance abuse.  Since I’ve always seen the word, “BRENDA” in all CAPS, I figured it had to be something other than a single person.  But, I always leave all avenues of exploration open when I start studying something.  And, as I originally figured, BRENDA is an acronym for the six (6) components of which it’s composed:

  1. A Biopsychosocial  evaluation
  2. A Report of findings from the evaluation given to the patient
  3. Empathy
  4. Addressing patient Needs
  5. Providing Direct advice
  6. Adjusting the plan according to the patient’s reaction to the advice

Each step has its purpose; really, the point of the BRENDA model is to address the entire spectrum of the needs of a specific patient in a specific setting (a full description of the model can be found here) in order to best address all needs.  For example, when applied to an opiate user, the first step might identify that the user may be a strong candidate for a suboxone program. Since there’s usually something else going on besides the substance abuse, the evaluation might also find that there is an underlying anxiety issue that also may need addressing.  Really, the point of the model is to address both the psychological and social factors impacting a patient and the biological factors and prescribe medication as indicated.

While I’m not always sold on the idea of treating substance abuse with another substance, the data suggests that it does in fact help.  And anecdotally, it makes sense: Since the body becomes physically dependent upon certain substances (like opiates and alcohol), addressing the physical component seems necessary in order to control the cravings the body will go through.  The data from BRENDA studies also suggests that when medication is used in conjunction with psychosocial support (like AA and/or NA), relapse rates drop significantly.  So, at a really high-level, it appears that the BRENDA model of substance abuse treatment does in fact work to increase the success of a recovery pogram.

My only criticism of the model at this point (I have to really use it and see its impact in the “real-world” over time), is that it should have a seventh step, indicated with an “S:” There should be some type of Spiritual component because humanity is composed of spirituality and without it, there will be something missing.  I’m not saying that treatment providers need to become Christian pastors, but to ignore the need for some form of spiritual expression will cause a vacuum in any given person.  So, I’m going to try using the BRENDAS treatment model and see if there’s any benefit to more than one BRENDA…