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Tracking Drug Rehab Success Rates in America
Most drug addiction treatment programs offered by certified rehab centers in the country do not have a standardized method to measure their success rates. Yet, there are a few ways to see how well they can work.
Oftentimes, success rates are accounted for by evaluating the number of people who relapsed after leaving a drug rehab center or by comparing the number of relapses with the cases sobriety.
Some drug rehab centers measure the success of their addiction treatment programs by looking at the number of patients who were able to fully complete their specific programs. Other rehabilitation facilities will take into account the rates of sobriety of the patients immediately after they have been cleared to leave the treatment center.
Success rates of a drug rehab center include evaluations or studies, which are usually conducted internally or by the parent companies of the organizations that are offering the addiction treatment services.
Many rehab centers that claim to have nearly perfect success rates but such claims are usually related to the fact that there are flexible criteria for measuring success; consequently, these assertions can be misleading.
A potential explanation for the fact that there aren't precise methods to track success rates of the drug rehab centers in the U.S. is that addiction medicine is a new medical sub-specialty.
Dr. Yngvild Olsen, an addiction specialist, member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) Board of Directors and chair of ASAM's Public Policy Committee, explained that the field addiction medicine was first recognized as a medical subspecialty by the American Board of Medical Specialty in the spring of 2016.
"The workforce of physicians and other healthcare professionals who are trained and specialized to treat addiction is woefully inadequate,"
Olsen also emphasized the fact that only one in 10 U.S. residents that acknowledge they need addiction treatment have the ability to receive it, which highlights the national need for more addiction specialists.
"The opioid epidemic has really brought awareness to the issue of addiction," she said. "There has been a lot of focus on the need for treatment. ASAM hopes that by educating the public and our physician colleagues, we can highlight that certifying more addiction medicine physicians and this new subspecialty will ensure that patients receive the professional care that they need and that they deserve."
Dr. Sarah Wakeman, the head of the Substance Use Disorder Initiative at the Massachusetts General Hospital and a Harvard physician who specializes in addiction treatment, explained that the initial assessment of a person's substance use disorder is crucial in determining their treatment outcomes.
"The earliest way we can identify [substance use disorders] is through screenings in primary care settings and in a few other settings that allow us to spot the people who have unhealthy alcohol or drug use habits before they actually develop the disease of addiction," she said. "There are several questions that we can ask about their alcohol and drug use that can identify the people who are at high risk of developing a substance use disorder."
Wakeman explained that if a substance use disorder is detected before it has been fully developed and healthcare providers can intervene, the patient that has been diagnosed will have much higher chances of successfully completing treatment.
"When someone actually develops a substance use disorder, we can make a diagnosis based on the criteria that are outlined on the DSM-5," she said. "There are 11 criteria and you have to meet at least two to have a diagnosis of a substance use disorder."
Reports from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) show that success is an individual concept in drug rehabilitation;
NIDA suggest that relapsing to drug use is often seen by people with substance use disorders and their loved ones as an indicator that the addiction treatment has failed — but that is not the case.
Members of the agency explained that having a substance use disorder is similar to having any other chronic disease, which means relapsing into the habits is not just possible but very probable.
A relapse should mean that the treatment needs more adjustments or that modifications should be considered, NIDA representatives affirm; adding that there are studies that highlight that most people who have substance use disorders benefit from remaining in treatment for extended periods of times.