Pathways of Substance Users Linking (Or Not) With Treatment

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This qualitative paper describes different pathways substance users experience as they decide whether to link to treatment or not after being assessed in a centralized intake unit in a Midwestern city. The narratives of 16 participants who did not link with treatment were compared with the narratives of 20 participants who did. Narratives from both groups described similar themes that were experienced differently. Nonlinkers were characterized by pretreatment abstinence, a negative experience with previous treatment, little previous engagement in a treatment career, and meaningful social support coming from AA. Linkers were more likely to continue using drugs before treatment entry, yet they described more readiness for treatment and were more engaged in a treatment career. The treatment careers approach provides a broader framework for understanding linkage versus nonlinkage to treatment.