Better rehab services – Addiction research at work

Fact: Addiction treatment success rates are often lower than 20% ! Addiction research shows that quarterly follow-ups may help us improve success by offering continuous support and recognizing problems earlier.

Addiction is a chronic disease

diabetesWhat do you do when you are sick? Typically, you would go to the doctor, get some treatment and expect a quick fix.  What would you do if you suffered from an addiction?  Most healthcare and insurance companies would expect you to do the same – get a quick treatment and be cured!

The thing is that addiction is much more similar to many chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension. The compliance rates and follow-through with treatment for these conditions is fairly low. For example, only 27% of patients with high blood pressure have their hypertension under control and only 46% of diabetics have their diabetes effectively managed.  For these kinds of conditions, short term interventions (less than 3 months) have produced positive findings only 38% of the time while long term ones (12 months or more) produced success rates as high as 100%. Still, addiction treatment rarely extends past a few months.

Today’s rehab services

More than half of patients entering addiction treatment are there for their 3rd, 4th,  or 5th treatment episode. Still, most patients who leave treatment return to use within 30-90 days of their release. This use is associated with 6-11 times the risk of dying!!!

Relapsing

Addiction success is most often reached after 3-4 treatment attempts. Recent research may help us reduce the number of treatments needed, or at least the length of time between first drug use and successful recovery (currently estimated at 27 years). These numbers point towards a scary conclusion: Rehabs are abandoning addicts to fend for themselves too early leaving them, and society at large, in danger.

Better rehab services through addiction research

Recent research shows that following the few months of treatment with simple quarterly checkups allowed counselors to catch relapses sooner and get the patient back into some sort of treatment more quickly. The checkups included short phone calls and scheduled face-to-face meetings that allowed counselors to assess a patient’s condition. Although it might sound as if more days in treatment are a negative thing, the number of checkups and increased amount of time in treatment actually improved overall results.  Patients who received RMCs experienced more sobriety and less severe symptoms of abuse than those who received treatment as usual.

So even if more treatment costs more money, addiction is something that can be helped if dealt with appropriately.  It doesn’t have to follow the same non-compliance rates as other chronic medical disorders. If you are seeking addiction treatment, make sure that your provider plans to include follow up services AFTER you leave treatment.

Citation:

Christy K Scott & Michael L. Dennis (2009). Results from two randomized clinical trials evaluating the impact of quarterly recovery management checkups with adult chronic substance users. Addiction, 104, 959–971.

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