Using research evidence in women’s addiction treatment

Research Snapshot

In brief

Some interventions have been proven effective to prevent and treat substance use problems in mothers, but Canadian agencies serving women are not putting them into practice. To better understand how Canadian addiction agencies are making decisions related to the treatments they provide, Ontario researchers conducted a descriptive, qualitative study.

In our latest Research Snapshot, EENet’s Samantha Delenardo looks at the article, “Evidence-informed decision-making by professionals working in addictions agencies serving women: a descriptive qualitative study,” by Susan M. Jack and colleagues. The article appeared in the Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, volume 6 (2015).

Research Snapshots are brief, clear language summaries of research articles, presented in a user-friendly format.

Read it below or download the PDF.

What you need to know

Addiction agencies serving women use research evidence in a variety of ways. Senior administrators often use it to inform their programming decisions, while service providers are less likely to use it to inform their practice decisions. Without buy-in from all levels, it is difficult to integrate programs, services, and interventions that are known to help clients. Research evidence needs to be more relevant to practice and administrators and agency champions need to encourage its use. 

In our latest Research Snapshot, EENet’s Samantha Delenardo looks at the article, “Evidence-informed decision-making by professionals working in addictions agencies serving women: a descriptive qualitative study,” by Susan M. Jack and colleagues. The article appeared in the Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, volume 6 (2015).

Research Snapshots are brief, clear language summaries of research articles, presented in a user-friendly format.

What is this research about?

Some interventions have been proven effective to prevent and treat substance use problems in mothers, but Canadian agencies serving women are not putting them into practice. To better understand how Canadian addiction agencies are making decisions related to the treatments they provide, Ontario researchers conducted a descriptive, qualitative study.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers conducted 26 in-depth interviews with decision-makers including executive directors, program managers, and service providers to explore where they get their evidence, how they use it, what types they prefer, and what factors influence its use.

What did the researchers find?

Service providers said they prefer a combination of their own personal experiences, client need, and models being used that they perceive as best practice to inform decisions. They were divided on research evidence: some said it gave them the confidence to make decisions; others said they rely more heavily on their professional or personal experience and only use it to justify their decisions. All agreed that addictions research is outdated or irrelevant. 

Program managers and executive directors made more use of research evidence to help inform key decisions around programming than did service providers, but there were some conditions. For example, it had to make sense for program staff and clients, be adaptable to the needs of everyone involved, and be understood as being one of many types of information to be considered. Research evidence was also used to identify emerging trends in the field.

The researchers identified a number of barriers to using research evidence. These include lack of time, having competing priorities, and having the belief that it doesn’t address true issues found in practice or is outdated. In particular, executive directors and some program managers thought that service providers resisted using research evidence because they felt it might contradict their long-standing approaches to service delivery. 

Participants suggested some strategies to increase the uptake of research evidence, including: 

  • creating a culture that encourages the use of evidence in decision making;
  • using knowledge brokers as information emissaries; 
  • making research evidence plain language with clear how-to’s; 
  • working with university-based academics to align research with practice and policy.

How can you use this research?

This research is useful to researchers, knowledge brokers, and senior administrators in women’s addictions agencies who are interested in increasing the use of research evidence by service providers. The suggestions provided might help to develop approaches that would enhance the use of research evidence in their organizations.

Limitations and next steps

Because participants were recruited by referring each other, it’s possible that their values and opinions were similar, which could limit the diversity of the experiences collected. Future studies should also recruit more service providers, as only six of the 26 participants belonged to this group. Finally, there might be differences between what participants think and how they actually act when making decisions. 

About the researchers

Susan M Jack is a Professor in the School of Nursing at McMaster University.
Maureen Dobbins is a Professor in the School of Nursing at McMaster University.
Wendy Sword is a Professor and Assistant Dean (Research) in the School of Nursing at McMaster University. 
Gabriela Novotna is a Professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Regina. 
Sandy Brooks is a Professor in the School of Nursing at McMaster University. Ellen L Lipman is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University.
Alison Niccols is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University.

This Research Snapshot is based on their article, “Evidence-informed decision-making by professionals working in addictions agencies serving women: a descriptive qualitative study,” which was published in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 2011. DOI: 10.1186/1747-597X-6-29 

Keywords

Substance abuse, knowledge translation, evidence-informed decision-making, research utilization 

This Research Snapshot is based on an article that has been critically appraised for quality and susceptibility to bias.

Evidence Exchange Network (EENet) has partnered with the Knowledge Mobilization Unit at York University to produce Research Snapshots in the field of mental health and addictions in Ontario.