"Overconfidence" versus "Helplessness": A qualitative study on abstinence self-efficacy of drug users in a male compulsory drug detention center in China.

Y. Zhang, B. Feng, W. Geng, Laurence Owens, J. Xi

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    13 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Compulsory drug detention is the most frequent way to control drug use in China; however, it has often been criticized. This qualitative study aimed to investigate abstinence self-efficacy and its sources of drug users in a compulsory male drug detention center in Shanghai, China, and the attitudes of the drug users to this form of rehabilitation. Methods: Thirty-six participants were interviewed (semi-structured, in depth) about their history of drug use and rehabilitation, self-evaluation of addiction, motivations to abstain, plans for the future and attitudes toward rehabilitation. A thematic analysis was undertaken of the transcripts with responses to interview questions being coded for content. Results: Two main types of self-efficacy were found - "overconfidence" (n=16) and "helplessness" (n=17). Overconfident participants underestimated their levels of addiction, overestimated their self-control and held external motivations and attributions. In contrast, helpless participants overestimated their levels of addiction, underestimated their self-control and had internal motivations and attributions. Compared to overconfident participants, helpless participants had more relapse history, and were more inclined to interpret relapse as a failure and attribute relapse to themselves. More helpless participants were abandoned by their family members, and received blame from the family members instead of encouragement, but their family members motivated them to abstain. Helpless participants experienced more negative emotions and had worse physical status. They said compulsory detention was a strong support for them and was the most effective way to abstain; while overconfident participants said compulsory detention was not necessary and not useful. Conclusion: It is important to increase the motivation of overconfident drug users and the perceived control of helpless drug users. Compulsory drug detention has strengths in supporting drug users who feel helpless to resist drug use. Adjustments and improvements of compulsory drug detention are suggested.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number29
    Pages (from-to)Art: 29
    Number of pages13
    JournalSubstance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2016


    • Abstinence self-efficacy
    • Attribution theory
    • Compulsory drug detention
    • Drug policy
    • Drug use
    • Learned helplessness
    • Qualitative method


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