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Psychosocial treatment for incarcerated methamphetamine users: the Philippines experience

Ma. Regina M. Hechanova (Department of Psychology, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City, Philippines, and University Research Co., LLC, Bethesda, Maryland, USA)
Jennel C. Reyes (Department of Psychology, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City, Philippines)
Avegale C. Acosta (Department of Psychology, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City, Philippines)
Antover P. Tuliao (Department of Community Family and Addiction Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA)

International Journal of Prisoner Health

ISSN: 1744-9200

Article publication date: 17 August 2020

Issue publication date: 17 November 2020




The purpose of this study is to evaluate a psychosocial treatment program for prisoners incarcerated because of methamphetamine use. It compared the outcomes of prisoners who received the program while incarcerated, those who were released and received the treatment as part of community-based drug recovery program and a waitlist-control group (WC) with no treatment.


A quasi-experimental design was use with pre- and post-test surveys administered to three groups: a WC group, a pre-release treatment-while-incarcerated (TWI) group, and a post-release outpatient treatment group (OP). Surveys measured recovery skills, life skills and substance use disorder (SUD) symptoms were administered before and after the intervention.


Results revealed that at baseline OP and TWI had significant higher recovery skills compared to WC group. However, in terms of life skills, there was no significant difference observed among the WC, OP and TWI group at baseline. TWI had a significantly lower number of SUD symptoms compared to the WC group at baseline. As hypothesized, findings revealed significant changes in recovery and life skills among the OP and TWI group compared to the WC group. No significant change in SUD scores were observed for all groups.

Research limitations/implications

A major limitation of the study was the use of a quasi-experimental design because legal issues did not allow a randomized control trial. Future research using randomized controlled trial designs would provide more robust conclusions on the impact of the intervention. The study design was also limited to pre- and post-evaluation. Further studies are encouraged to look at longitudinal outcomes of appears on SUD symptoms and possibility of relapse.

Practical implications

Given that there were no significant differences in outcomes between OP and TWI groups, results suggest that the program may serve either as a pre- or post-release program for incarcerated drug users. However, results also suggest that completion is higher when the program is used as a pre-release program. Delivering the program prior to release also reduces challenges related to attrition including conflict in schedules and the lack of resources for transportation.

Social implications

The study suggests the value of psychosocial treatment as opposed to punitive approaches in dealing with drug use. In particular, delivering interventions prior to release can prepare participants for problems they may encounter during reintegration and prevent recidivism. In a country where drug-related killings are on the rise, the study presents an alternate and restorative justice approach.


The study addresses a dearth in the literature on psychosocial intervention for methamphetamine users. It also fills a vacuum in studies from developing countries such as the Philippines.



This study was funded by the Commission on Higher Education K-12 Dare to Research Grant.


Hechanova, M.R.M., Reyes, J.C., Acosta, A.C. and Tuliao, A.P. (2020), "Psychosocial treatment for incarcerated methamphetamine users: the Philippines experience", International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 343-358.



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