How Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?

Family at Counseling
Recovery Is More Than Not Doing Drugs. © Getty Images

Question: How Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?

Answer: In most cases, the goal of treatment for drug addiction or abuse is not only to get the person to stop using drugs, but to also return the individual to a productive member of society.

The goal of drug treatment is to not only to stop compulsive drug seeking and use, but to help the patient become a functioning member of the family, more capable of becoming employed and improve his or her medical condition.

Depending on the circumstances, the goal of drug treatment may also include reducing the criminal behavior of the addict.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, effective drug treatment should, at the very least, lead to the following outcomes:

  • Reduced use of primary drug
  • Improve employment functioning
  • Improved educational status
  • Improved interpersonal relationships
  • Improved general health and medical status
  • Improved legal status
  • Improved mental health status

Therefore, to measure the effectiveness of drug treatment programs, the rate of abstinence is not the only factor to be considered, but also the functioning of the patient at home, work and in the community.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research shows that overall drug treatment is as successful as treatment of other chronic diseases, such as asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure.

NIDA research shows that drug treatment programs can produce the following results:

  • Reduce drug use by 40% to 60%
  • Reduce arrests for criminal acts by 40%
  • Methadone treatment reduces criminal behavior by 50%
  • Reduces the risk of HIV infection.
  • Increases the prospects of employment by 40%

But, the NIDA is quick to point out that individual treatment outcomes can vary widely depending on many factors, including the patient's presenting problems, how well the treatment program addresses those problems and the extent to which the patient is actively involved in the treatment process.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy's Treatment Protocol Effectiveness Study found that drug treatment programs work when "those who abuse drugs can be engaged and retained in treatment and when other needed services can be integrated with drug treatment itself and delivered to help clients resolve the range of problems that accompany their drug use.

For more information about how drug treatment programs work, see Four Stages of Alcohol and Drug Rehab.

Back to: Drug Treatment FAQ

Source:

Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Treatment Protocol Effectiveness Study." Publications March 1996.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Frequently Asked Questions." Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Updated December 2012

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide." Revised 2007.

Continue Reading