Addiction services conference – Addiction research to addiction treatment success

I’m currently attending UCSF‘s Addiction Health Services Research Conference. The 3 day event aims to improve addiction treatment by bringing together researchers, treatment providers, and state and federal policy players. I’m going to write from here after every day filling you all in on the latest and greatest.

Today’s addiction research summary

Today’s main topics focused once again on the shift in addiction treatment conceptualization from a short term, black box sort of model to a more chronic one. I’ve already talked about comparing addiction to other chronic diseases, like diabetes or hypertension, in another post on here (see here). Nevertheless, today’s talks provided some additional insight.

Today’s speakers, members of UCLA‘s Integrated Substance Abuse Program (In the interest of full disclosure, I myself work at ISAP), talked about the notion that in order to provide the best treatment, we need to start looking at some more measures of treatment success. As it stand right now, those who assess treatment success mostly look at abstinence following discharge from treatment. While reductions in drug use are certainly important, they don’t tell the whole story.

Other measures of addiction treatment success

I won’t go into these in too much details (the presentation lasted 3 hours), but here are some of the suggested measures the speakers mentioned:

  1. Good treatment initiation rates.
  2. Client retention rates at or above 90 days.
  3. Percent (%) of clients successfully transferred to next level of care – This is especially important for the chronic care model of addiction.
  4. Treatment completion – A little dicey because providers set their own standards of completion.

Those were the major ones discussed today. Given my experience in research, I thought of some additional ones, including:

  1. Improvement in employment status for clients.
  2. Reductions in client drug use – I think testing should be a standard, and ongoing, aspect of all drug treatment programs. Drug users need to stay clean in early treatment and the only way to tell for sure is by testing them.
  3. Use of research-supported methods to increase treatment retention – There are quite a few tools (like CM, use of medications like suboxone, and more) that are often underused but have shown great promise in helping keep clients in treatment for longer.

That’s it for today. More tomorrow!!!

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