Outcomes of Alcohol and Other Drug Dependency Treatment

Research Update

The following is a Research Update excerpt from the Butler Center for Research. Download the PDF to read the entire Update.

What are Successful Outcomes?

Successful treatment outcomes can be defined in a number of ways. Many outcomes measures focus specifically on the quantity and frequency of substance use during a predefined period of time following discharge from alcohol or drug (AOD) treatment. However, other measures of life functioning can provide a more complete picture of treatment success. These measures include quality of life, level of functioning in one's career or job, level of involvement with the legal system, and the extent to which a person requires medical care or hospitalization for medical problems associated with alcohol or drug use.

What Does the Research Show?

The Butler Center for Research at Hazelden (BCR) regularly collects, analyzes, and disseminates outcomes data from patients attending a wide variety of Hazelden programs. Specially trained BCR staff conduct telephone interviews with patients at roughly 1, 6 and 12 months following discharge from Hazelden. Outcomes analyses are performed at each follow up and typically focus on two measures related to substance use: the percentage of patients who report being continuously abstinent from alcohol and drugs for the entire follow up period (continuous abstinence), and the percentage of days during the follow up period that patients remain abstinent from alcohol (PDA from alcohol).

The continuous abstinence rate at the 1 month follow up for patients attending residential treatment at Hazelden’s Center City location typically runs in the low to mid 80s, indicating that the majority of patients successfully remain abstinent within the first month following discharge. The abstinence rate is typically in the low to mid 60s during the 6 month follow up period and runs in the low to mid 50s during the 12 month follow up period.

Another way to examine substance use outcomes is to compare the percentage of days patients remained abstinent from alcohol (PDA) during a period of time following treatment as compared to a period of time before treatment. The following graph shows the average PDA from alcohol among a recent sample of Center City residential patients:

Percent days abstinent from alcohol at baseline and at each follow-up after treatment  at Center City 

This graph shows that patients have a very high PDA from alcohol within the entire year following treatment. Even at the 12 month follow up, PDA from alcohol is dramatically higher than at baseline, demonstrating a statistically significant improvement in alcohol use during the year following treatment.

Dramatic improvement from pre- to post-treatment is also observed for a number of other outcomes measures. The following graph shows average quality of life ratings for a number of life domains in the year following treatment compared to before treatment (higher scores represent higher quality of life):

Quality of life ratings before and after treatment at Center City 

Patients reported experiencing significantly higher quality of life after treatment compared to before across all life domains. Similar improvements pre- to post-treatment have been found in healthcare service utilization, job/career performance, and legal outcomes such as number of arrests and number of DUIs.

How to use this information

In general, Hazelden data as well as other published studies suggest that alcohol and drug treatment is effective. It is important for those seeking help for alcohol and other drug problems to find a treatment approach that best suits their needs. It is also important to recognize that sustained recovery from alcohol and drug dependence is a complex phenomenon involving multiple factors, and treatment success can be measured in a variety of ways across a number of different domains.

Download the Research Update
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