Residential Treatment Matters

locations-dawn-farmDavid Sack, in Psychology Today reviews a recently publish 11 year study of heroin users finding that residential treatment may “set the best course”:

A sweeping 11-year study out of Australia adds fresh understanding to our knowledge of heroin dependence and, in the process, challenges a widely held misconception—that residential rehab doesn’t really do much to help the heroin addict. Instead, the research shows residential rehabilitation may well set the best course to long-term improvement.

The research team, representing Australia’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, followed 615 heroin users, checking in with them at 3, 12, 24 and 36 months and, finally, at 11 years. The goal was to determine just how they would fare over time in terms of drug use patterns, mortality, remission, overdose rates, suicide attempts, criminality, and mental and physical health. By the final year, 10 percent had died, almost half were still in some form of treatment, and those still using heroin fell to a quarter. With the drop in use came less crime, less risk-taking and better overall health. In the final analysis, residential rehab treatment was associated with positive outcomes across the board and was the only factor significantly associated with better physical health.

In the first year of the long-term study, residential rehab appeared to be about as effective as other forms of help, such as methadone maintenance. Ultimately, however, it was those who spent time in residential rehabilitation who recorded the best outcomes, especially if that rehab stay came early in the course of treatment.

4 thoughts on “Residential Treatment Matters

  1. Hi Jason I assume the folks in long term in this study were not medication assisted. What a great study and I’m not surprised. I am convinced after now nearly 15yrs of treating addiction as a Board Certified addiction medicine physician that long term residential is virtually a basic requirement for heroin addicts to succeed in recovery. I don’t know why you would say something about “common misconception that residential doesn’t work for heroin addicts,” everyone that legitimately knows addiction knows the value of residential. The problem is most people have no understanding of the profound nature of heroin addiction and how much commitment to change is required for success in recovery. And let’s be clear that a significant percentage of addicts don’t want true recovery. Or perhaps worded a little differently don’t have to willingness to work at and the patience to stay consistent with things. But some do want it, and have the willingness to work at it & be patient with themselves. For these folks I firmly believe that residential with structured programming is the treatment of choice. Kudos to you for getting this stuff out to us & creating this dialogue!


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