Addiction Treatment Success Rates

Addiction treatment programs have high success rates if they are followed correctly by patients. The twelve-step treatment model has helped countless men and women in achieving lasting sobriety.

The Open Journal of Psychiatry recently published an article on drug treatment programs. According to the Journal, the problem of addiction is growing by the millions:

“Addiction is a serious problem affecting between 20 million and 40 million individuals in the United States. The economic impact on the country is estimated to be 200 billion dollars per year in terms of lost productivity, health-related treatment costs, and criminal justice expenses”(OJP).

addiction treatment success

Measuring the Success of a Drug Treatment Program

The need for addiction treatment to be a success is crucial in our country because we’re in the middle of an opioid epidemic. However, to determine whether or not an addiction treatment program is successful is an ongoing question that lacks any standard criteria for measuring effectiveness. The parameters used to determine the success a treatment program has should be judged from observation of the recovering addict or alcoholic.

These observations include the number of days abstinent from drug and alcohol use, physical and mental health, quality of life and relationships, employment status, emotional stability and attendance to aftercare recommendations and or attendance at 12 step meetings and or counseling and therapy.

If the above observations are met satisfactorily, then a person is said to have attended a successful addiction treatment program. Therefore, considering that there is no measure for success other than observations which determine success rates, it is best first to define:

  • What is an addiction?
  • Treatment programs available
  • How is success is relevant to addiction treatment and recovery?

To best define addiction, we will utilize the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA. NIDA is a United States federal-government research institute whose mission is to ” advance science on the causes and consequences of drug use and addiction and to apply that knowledge to improve individual and public health” (NIDA).

NIDA defines addiction as “Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. It is considered a brain disorder because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control, and those changes may last a long time after a person has stopped taking drugs” (NIDA).

Addiction treatment, also defined by NIDA, is “Drug treatment is intended to help addicted individuals stop compulsive drug seeking and use. Treatment can occur in a variety of settings, take many different forms, and last for different lengths of time. Because drug addiction is typically a chronic disorder characterized by occasional relapses, short-term, one-time treatment is usually not sufficient. For many, treatment is a long-term process that involves multiple interventions and regular monitoring” (NIDA).

Most important to consider when defining addiction treatment are the types of treatment programs available. As indicated by NIDA, there are numerous types of treatment. Detox is a phase of most treatment programs but is not considered treatment. Detox is necessary to make addiction treatment effective. A person cannot benefit from treatment if they are still in active addiction or in other words, under the influence.

Detox centers utilize medication to ease withdrawal symptoms to help the addict or alcoholic get clean and sober and to prepare them for treatment. Professional addiction treatment centers either offer detox services or coordinate detoxification with a medically-supervised detox center. Although detox itself is not considered treatment, it is a vital phase of the recovery process.

Detox First, Followed by Rehabilitation

Once a person has completed detox, the next phase is inpatient, partial hospitalization, or residential rehab. Treatment programs range in length of time and intensity. Inpatient programs also referred to as residential treatment programs, require the client to remain onsite for a set amount of days or months. The most common length of treatment is 30 days. However, research has shown the more effective treatment programs are much longer and that 90 days is optimum.

Another category of treatment is outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment. These types of programs do not require the client to remain on site but allow the client to remain at home or to reside in a sober living environment, also called a halfway house or sober living home. Outpatient treatment programs are the least structured and require less commitment. Outpatient programs are effective, but may not be not as effective as an inpatient or residential treatment. Intensive outpatient programs are more effective when combined with a sober living environment, as these programs are more structured and require more participation.

Finally, how do we define addiction treatment and addiction recovery success? Because addiction recovery cannot be measured physically like other chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, the measure to determine whether a person is in recovery from their addiction can’t be as easily determined.

There are no lab tests that indicate whether relapse is about to occur like there is with diabetes or hypertension. There are only (drug presence) tests to determine that the relapse is already in progress. Unfortunately, drug screening tests are not strategic because a person can remain clean and sober to pass the drug screening test and then return to using. How do we measure addiction treatment success without standard criteria available?

Longer Treatment is Usually Better

Fortunately, research has confirmed that the longer a treatment program is, the more likely it is that a person will remain clean and sober for good, indicating the treatment was a success. A recent study was published in the Open Journal of Psychiatry, and conducted by Dr. Akker Mohammad, of the University of Southern California, who lead the study.

“More than 3,000 data points were used to control the study. Patients were nearly divided evenly by gender with the mean average age about 30 years old. Patients were treated for a number of chemical dependencies including alcohol, amphetamine, benzodiazepines, and opioids. All these factors considered the only significant one was the patients’ duration of treatment. Those undergoing an industry standard 30-day treatment program exhibited a 54.7% treatment success rate after one year. In contrast, patients that participated in a treatment program lasting more than 30 days experienced a success rate of 84.2%” (OJP)

Dr. Akikur Mohammad also stated that “Aftercare is crucial once an individual has completed drug or alcohol treatment and is in recovery. There is a continuity of care that should be followed once initial treatment is completed…Our study shows that the absence of such treatment after 30 days significantly reduces the chances of the patient maintaining their sobriety”. (PR Newswire, Mar 1, 2017).

Another source for understanding how successful a treatment program is would be individuals who have remained in recovery long term. Most successful recovering addicts and alcoholics will testify that they attended a long-term treatment program and continued care afterward. They will also be involved in 12 step or other support groups that focus on addiction recovery. Another aspect that long term recovering addicts and alcoholics rely on is a connection to a Higher Power.

If you’re interested in a reputable and solution-focused addiction treatment program with high success rates, Recreate Life Counseling is available to help you or a loved one on the road to lasting recovery.