How successful are addiction treatments?

20 June 2013



What are the success rates for different methods of fighting substance addiction? How are these rates measured?


Dr Amy Milton from Cambridge University gets to grips with this question......

Amy - It's very difficult to get relapse rates because when people relapse, they often then drop out of medical treatment. So, it's difficult to get follow up and you find that somewhere between 40% and 60% of individuals who've come for treatment are still abstinent, 1 year following the addiction or following treatment for the addiction. Of the remaining individuals, you have lapsed in that period then somewhere between 15% and 30% of those haven't become dependent again. So, they may have lapsed once but they've managed to regain control of their drug use to a degree.

Hannah - What type of treatments are these then? Are there some treatments that are more successful than others?

Amy - There are many different types of treatments and it's difficult to compare them, one against the other because what works for one individual won't necessarily work for another individual. As researchers, we talk about relapse in very, very general terms, but of course, ever individual who has become addicted has done so in a unique way and very unique set of reasons. The kinds of treatments that we're really thinking about here are what are sometimes known as substitution therapy. So, things like nicotine patches for smokers, methadone for heroin users. There's also cognitive and behavioural therapies, psychological therapies, other type of therapies, things like group therapies or family counselling, so the AA 12 Steps Programme, that sort of thing. And what works for one person may not work for someone else and what works for an individual may change at different points in their life as well.


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