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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2003 Sep 10;71(3):281-94.

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

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0984, USA.



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.


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.


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.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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