David Sack, in Psychology Today reviews a recently publish 11 year study of heroin users finding that residential treatment may “set the best course”:
A sweeping 11-year study out of Australia adds fresh understanding to our knowledge of heroin dependence and, in the process, challenges a widely held misconception—that residential rehab doesn’t really do much to help the heroin addict. Instead, the research shows residential rehabilitation may well set the best course to long-term improvement.
The research team, representing Australia’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, followed 615 heroin users, checking in with them at 3, 12, 24 and 36 months and, finally, at 11 years. The goal was to determine just how they would fare over time in terms of drug use patterns, mortality, remission, overdose rates, suicide attempts, criminality, and mental and physical health. By the final year, 10 percent had died, almost half were still in some form of treatment, and those still using heroin fell to a quarter. With the drop in use came less crime, less risk-taking and better overall health. In the final analysis, residential rehab treatment was associated with positive outcomes across the board and was the only factor significantly associated with better physical health.
In the first year of the long-term study, residential rehab appeared to be about as effective as other forms of help, such as methadone maintenance. Ultimately, however, it was those who spent time in residential rehabilitation who recorded the best outcomes, especially if that rehab stay came early in the course of treatment.