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J Consult Clin Psychol. 2014 Aug;82(4):619-27. doi: 10.1037/a0036245. Epub 2014 Mar 17.

What happens in treatment doesn't stay in treatment: cocaine abstinence during treatment is associated with fewer problems at follow-up.

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Department of Psychiatry.
Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico.



Cocaine users often present to treatment with a multitude of problems typically considered addiction related; however, there is little evidence that reductions in cocaine use are followed by reductions in these problems. This study evaluated the relationship between rates of cocaine use during treatment and the level of non-cocaine life problems experienced during a 12-month period following treatment in a pooled sample of 434 cocaine-dependent individuals participating in 1 of 5 randomized controlled trials.


Structural equation modeling and latent growth curve modeling were used to evaluate the relationship between frequency of cocaine use within treatment (8 or 12 weeks) and a latent construct of global problems indicated by the days of problems reported on the Addiction Severity Index across follow-up time points (1, 3, 6, and 12 months after treatment).


Both a continuous latent cocaine use outcome measure (percent days abstinent, percent positive urines, and maximum days of consecutive abstinence) and a dichotomous measure of cocaine use (≥21 consecutive days of abstinence) during the treatment period were associated with frequency of cocaine use and global problems during follow-up. Overall, results indicated that greater cocaine abstinence during the treatment period was associated with higher rates of abstinence and fewer global problems experienced following treatment.


This is one of the first studies to support a model that suggests addiction-related problems decrease in accordance with achieving abstinence from cocaine, thereby providing evidence that within-treatment cocaine abstinence has benefits that extend beyond the frequency of drug use.

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