A group-based motivational interviewing brief intervention to reduce substance use and sexual risk behavior among homeless young adults

Homeless young adults ages 18–25 exhibit high rates of alcohol and other drug (AOD) use, and sexual risk behaviors such as unprotected sex. Yet few programs exist for this population that are both effective and can be easily incorporated into settings serving this population. This pilot cluster cross-over randomized controlled trial evaluates AWARE, a voluntary four session group-based motivational interviewing (MI) intervention to reduce AOD use and sexual risk behavior. We evaluated AWARE with 200 homeless young adults using drop-in center services in Los Angeles County (mean age = 21.8 years; 73% male; 79% heterosexual; 31% non-Hispanic White, 25% African American, 24% Hispanic, 21% multiracial/other). Surveys were completed at baseline and three months after program completion. Retention in the AWARE program was excellent (79% attended multiple sessions) and participants reported high levels of satisfaction with the program. AWARE participants self-reported positive change in their past 3 month and past 30 day alcohol use (ps ≤ 0.05), motivation to change drug use (ps < 0.05), and condom use self-efficacy (p = 0.05) compared to the control group. Among those with multiple sex partners, AWARE participants showed a decrease in unprotected sexual events (p < 0.05), whereas the control group did not. Results from this pilot evaluation are promising, suggesting that a brief group-MI risk reduction intervention can be effective in helping homeless young adults make positive changes in their alcohol and condom use. Further work is needed to more fully evaluate the efficacy of AWARE on AOD behavior and sexual risk behavior outcomes.

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Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment