A newly published study makes a case for residential treatment for opioid addicts:
Opioid users were much more likely to benefit from residential treatment compared to alcohol users. In contrast, the opposite was true for those with marijuana as a primary substance of abuse—the degree of benefit offered by residential treatment was less than that for alcohol abusers. However, for cocaine and methamphetamine users, there was no moderation effect—the effect of treatment setting on treatment completion did not differ from alcohol abusers.
We speculate that for opioid abusers, the increased structure and cloistering of residential treatment provide some protection from the environmental and social triggers for relapse or that otherwise lead to the termination of treatment that outpatient treatment settings do not afford. Indeed, environmental risk characteristics in drug abusers’ residential neighborhoods, such as the presence of liquor stores and indicators of concentrated disadvantage at the neighborhood level, have been found to be associated with treatment non-continuity and relapse (Stahler et al., 2007, Stahler et al., 2009 and Mennis et al., 2012). Such environmental triggers may play a particularly substantial role for those addicted to opioids compared to those seeking treatment for marijuana abuse. Since opioid users have the lowest raw completion rates in general (Table 1), this finding that residential treatment makes a greater positive difference for opioid users than it does for any of the other substances represents an important result that merits further investigation. Given the current epidemic of opioid-related overdoses in the U.S., our results suggest that greater use of residential treatment should be explored for opioid users in particular.