Successful treatment for drug abuse also involves addressing and positively impacting nearly every aspect of the individual’s functioning which have been compromised by substance abuse; and improvement, or lack thereof, in these areas too must be considered when assessing the efficacy of treatment for drug abuse.
Moreover, it takes countless days to contract the disease of addiction, several months (at least) to adequately learn the tools and techniques that support a sober life and sober decision making, and years of practicing those tools and techniques before they become second nature. This is why, throughout the health-care industry, treatment for substance abuse is viewed as accretive – many addicts will require several episodes of effective treatment before long-term and satisfying sobriety will obtain. Hence, measuring the efficacy of any one treatment episode, given the accretive nature of substance abuse treatment, proves difficult.
Of course, complicating this already complicated matter, is the often-misunderstood role of relapse in the long-term recovery process. Relapse rates for addiction resemble those of other chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. And like with those diseases, the professional medical community views relapse back into active substance-abuse – not as abject failure – but as an expected and predictable part of the recovery process. In this view, any period of sobriety wherein the addict devotes themselves to learning and practicing the tools that enable long-term abstinence can be considered positively and progressively accretive. However, viewing any one treatment episode as directly and measurably causal regarding post-treatment recovery, or relapse as the case may be, fails to take into account the accretive nature of substance-abuse treatment, along with the accepted, albeit difficult to measure, role that relapse plays in long-term recovery processes.
None of the above should be taken to say that treatment for substance abuse doesn’t work and/or that measuring its impact on patients is impossible; it is to say that drug addiction, and treatments for it, are complex and therefore measuring outcomes is tricky. Nevertheless, there is total consensus throughout the medical and health-care establishments that treatment for substance abuse can and does work; indeed, it is typically a necessary and indispensable component in recovering from substance-abuse. Nearly all addicted individuals believe at the outset that they can stop using drugs on their own; most try, and fail, to stop without treatment.