Results from the 2023 Patient Outcomes Study

It’s hard to find data on treatment success, and it’s even harder to trust the data that’s out there. Here we explain how we collect data and measure success. We also offer a few suggestions for evaluating other treatment programs.
Smiling young Hispanic female therapist attentively listens to male patient discuss something during therapy appointment

The Butler Center for Research recently finished a two-year study assessing for abstinence rate, relapses, quality of life and peer support meeting attendance among patients at Hazelden Betty Ford—conducting thousands of phone interviews among inpatient and virtual intensive outpatient populations, then analyzing the results.

About the Butler Center for Research

The Butler Center for Research advances the science of recovery by conducting clinical and institutional research at Hazelden Betty Ford, collecting and analyzing original data or partnering with other research centers and peer institutions. The Center's studies often focus on or evaluate existing treatment and recovery practices, and its work to define emerging concepts helps point the way forward to the future of addiction treatment.

What We're Studying

It's difficult to capture the mechanisms of addiction and recovery in all their sophistication. Whereas other chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes can be monitored through physical signs and symptoms, there isn't an equivalent metric for addiction and recovery: this is a disease that affects the entire person—mind, body and spirit.

In our interviews with patients, we analyze what are known as the "bio-psycho-social" factors, including abstinence rate, relapses, quality of life and peer support meeting attendance. In the future, we intend to expand our measures and further define emerging concepts, like social connection and other recovery resources, as these might prove predictive of relapses or long-term recovery success.

How We Collect Data and Measure Treatment Success

As a part of our ongoing efforts to review and optimize our model of care, patients can sign a release when they enter treatment at Hazelden Betty Ford to be included in our long-term study on patient outcomes and treatment success. Our researchers then conduct phone interviews one, three, six, nine and 12 months after discharge.

For our patient outcomes (or patient success rate) studies, our researchers are measuring:

  • Abstinence from alcohol and other drugs
  • Physical and mental health
  • Quality of relationships
  • Level of functioning in career or school
  • Quality of social life
  • Compliance with aftercare recommendations (e.g., attending Twelve Step meetings)

Why Should I Research Treatment Success Rates?

If you or someone you know is considering treatment for substance use or mental health disorders, it's highly encouraged to conduct your own research beforehand. Not all treatment centers track patient outcomes, or their data collection and reporting methodology could be inconsistent with best practices.

Other treatment centers may not account for relapses. They might define treatment success as "Attended all group therapy sessions" or "Exceeded required meeting attendance," and nothing more. In other words, they might be "sketchy" or disreputable.

Unless they share with consumers how they collect and report clinical results, you don't know how they define success, and you may receive lower-quality care than you deserve.

Questions to Ask Other Treatment Providers

If you've found an addiction treatment center that claims to have cured the disease, or their success rates seem too good to be true, consider reaching out to someone on their staff to validate their reported outcomes.

Some questions you could ask:

  • What variables and which populations did you measure?
  • How did you define and measure success? Does that include length of abstinence? Improved physical or mental health?
  • How did you collect your data?
  • How many patients did you survey? What was the response rate?
  • In which type of treatment program were participants enrolled?

If there were limited participants, they're unwilling to disclose their methodology or they studied populations or treatment settings that don't apply to you, those study results aren't terribly useful in your search for quality care.

That being said, it would be helpful to know what you're looking for in a treatment provider. If you're interested in specialized services for mental health, gender, race, culture, trauma, family of origin issues, etc., you could also ask questions that revolve around your desired care.  

Additional Study Results

You can catch up on our other research, download white papers or emerging trend reports, and learn the latest in addiction science by clicking the button below the bulleted list.

We study, report and compile research on topics such as:

…and many, many more.