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How Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?


Updated February 24, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: How Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?
Answer: In most cases, the goal of treatment for drug addiction or abuse is not only to get the person to stop using drugs, but to also return the individual to a productive member of society.

The goal of drug treatment is to not only to stop compulsive drug seeking and use, but to help the patient become a functioning member of the family, more capable of becoming employed and improve his or her medical condition.

Depending on the circumstances, the goal of drug treatment may also include reducing the criminal behavior of the addict.

Therefore, to measure the effectiveness of drug treatment programs, the rate of abstinence is not the only factor to be considered, but also the functioning of the patient at home, work and in the community.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research shows that overall drug treatment is as successful as treatment of other chronic diseases, such as asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure.

NIDA research shows that drug treatment programs can produce the following results:

  • Reduce drug use by 40% to 60%
  • Reduce arrests for criminal acts by 40%
  • Methadone treatment reduces criminal behavior by 50%
  • Reduces the risk of HIV infection.
  • Increases the prospects of employment by 40%
But, the NIDA is quick to point out that individual treatment outcomes can vary widely depending on many factors, including the patient's presenting problems, how well the treatment program addresses those problems and the extent to which the patient is actively involved in the treatment process.

Back to: Drug Treatment FAQ


National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Frequently Asked Questions." Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Updated December 2012

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide." Revised 2007.

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