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Drug and Alcohol Treatment

The four most common types of drug and alcohol treatment are outpatient methadone, outpatient drug-free, long-term residential, and short-term inpatient services. Outpatient methadone programs provide the addict with methadone medication to decrease his heroin cravings and suppress its effects. Some patients remain on methadone for a long time, while others abandon methadone and progress to abstinence. Long-term residential programs provide 24/7 drug-free treatment in a residential environment comprised of counselors and recovering addicts. Patients tend to remain in these programs for many months, sometimes up to a year or longer. Many of these drug and alcohol treatment programs are called therapeutic communities.

Outpatient drug-free programs utilize a bevy of approaches ranging from problem-solving groups, specialized therapies including psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and 12-step methodologies. Similar to long-term residential treatment programs, patients in outpatient drug-free programs may remain in these programs for months or more. In the short-term inpatient program, a patient can stay in the program for up to 30 days. Many of these programs deal with medical stabilization, promoting abstinence, and lifestyle changes. The members of staff are mainly medical professionals plus trained counselors. Once upon a time, these programs were used mainly for alcohol abuse, but in the 1980s, they were expanded into drug and alcohol treatment centers.

The four most popular types of treatment for drug abuse are all effective in decreasing drug use, according to a NIDA-sponsored study of drug abuse treatment results. The Drug Abuse Treatment Outcome Study (DATOS) kept track of 10,010 drug abusers in almost 100 treatment programs in 11 cities who had been in treatment from 1991 to 1993.

According to DATOS researchers, the reason patients stay in treatment can be attributed to high motivation, legal pressure to remain in treatment, no previous issues with the law, receiving psychological counseling while undergoing treatment, and having no other psychological problems. The investigators discovered that programs with low retention rates generally have patients with the most issues, especially problems with antisocial personality disorder, alcohol dependence, or cocaine addiction.

Short-term inpatient drug and alcohol treatment programs according to the DATOS study showed substantial decreases in drug use, despite the fact that patients remained in these programs for only 30 days. Notably, patients surveyed by DATOS cited that it took them roughly 7 years after they first used their primary drug to undergo treatment.

In 1992, the societal cost of alcohol and drug abuse was approximately $246 billion. Specifically, alcohol abuse and alcoholism cost approximately $148 billion; drug abuse and dependence cost approximately $98 billion.

The results from a study performed by Cornell University researchers of students in 7-9th grade in the state of New York reflect that the chances of students drinking, smoking and using marijuana were 40 percent less when students engaged in a substance abuse prevention program (school-based) than when they did not participate. Notably, in 1979, 18 percent of all adolescents age 12 to 17 used illegal drugs; by 1991, 7 percent were using illegal drugs. Although this is a positive decline, individuals who are still abusing drugs or alcohol are advised to enroll now in a drug and alcohol treatment center.

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