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J Subst Abuse Treat. 1997 Nov-Dec;14(6):543-58.

Drug treatment careers. A conceptual framework and existing research findings.

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Neuropsychiatric Institute, University of California, Los Angeles 90024-3511, USA.


While outcomes for any single intervention are important to determine, the long term evaluation of multiple, sequential interventions is at least equally important. One strategy for examining this process is that of the treatment career. A treatment careers perspective applies a longitudinal dynamic approach to identify and understand key factors influencing the development of, and transitions in the course of, drug dependence and its treatment. After presenting an overview of the treatment careers perspective, this paper reviews and discusses relevant research issues and findings on treatment seeking, utilization and resistance, entry and reentry, engagement and retention, client treatment matching, and outcomes. Key findings include high resistance to entering treatment by many drug users, late development of treatment careers relative to addiction and criminal careers, short durations of most treatment episodes, cumulative and facilitative effects of treatment experiences, and beneficial effects of matching clients to treatment. The treatment careers perspective provides a useful framework within which findings on drug treatment can be better integrated and critical issues can be identified for further research, leading to a better understanding of drug dependence and its treatment.

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