Mortality and Return to Work of Drug Abusers From Therapeutic Community Treatment 3 Years After Entry



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Background: The outcome of therapeutic community treatment for drug abuse has been disputed with regard to mortality and rehabilitation to school or work as compared with other treatment modalities.

Method: All patients (N = 130) admitted to a therapeutic community during 3 consecutive years (1996-1998), who had failed to stop abusing drugs after ambulatory and primary care initiatives, were assessed 1 to 4 years (mean = 36.5 months) after end of treatment. Rates of rehabilitation to school or work, changes in drug use patterns, and mortality were observed.

Results: Nine persons died during the observation period (the observation time to death seemed to be shorter in women than in men). The mortality rate per 100 observation years was 2.28. Among the surviving drug abusers, 39% were working or attending school at study endpoint. One fourth currently used drugs, and approximately 14% were enrolled in a methadone maintenance program. Another 13% were in treatment or prison.

Conclusion: Drug abuse is an activity that increases the mortality rate, but among the surviving persons, a considerable number are rehabilitated, as assessed after a longer observation period. The authors suggest that this outcome could not have been attained with ambulatory general practice-driven services, even with empathic follow-up.

(Primary Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2003;5:164-167)

Primary Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2003;5(4):164-167