Short-term alcohol and drug treatment outcomes predict long-term outcome

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2003 Sep 10;71(3):281-94. doi: 10.1016/s0376-8716(03)00167-4.


Introduction: Although addiction is recognized as a chronic, relapsing condition, few treatment studies, and none in a commercially insured managed care population, have measured long-term outcomes. We examined the relationship of 6-month treatment outcomes to abstinence 5 years post-treatment, and whether the predictors of abstinence at 5 years were different for those who were, and were not, abstinent at 6 months.

Methods: The sample (N=784) is from an outpatient (day hospital and traditional outpatient) managed care chemical dependency program. Subjects were interviewed at baseline, 6 months, and 5 years. Logistic regression analysis was used to assess which individual, treatment and extra-treatment characteristics predicted alcohol and drug abstinence at 5 years.

Results: Abstinence at 6 months was an important predictor of abstinence at 5 years. Among those abstinent at 6 months, predictors of abstinence at 5 years were older age, being female, 12-step meeting attendance, and recovery-oriented social networks. Among those not abstinent at 6 months, being alcohol dependent rather than drug dependent, 12-step meeting attendance, treatment readmission, and recovery-oriented social networks predicted abstinence at 5 years.

Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate a clear association between short-term and long-term treatment success. In addition, these results strongly support the importance of recovery-oriented social networks for those with good short-term outcomes, and the beneficial impact of readmission for those not initially successful in treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / therapy*
  • Ambulatory Care / methods
  • Ambulatory Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy
  • Temperance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time
  • Treatment Outcome