The Evidence Gap: Drug Rehabilitation or Revolving Door

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Youths who struggle with drug and alcohol addictions often receive treatments that have not been proved scientifically to be successful, reports The New York Times. Despite the nearly 24 million Americans who need substance-abuse treatment, few rehabilitation programs have evidence showing that they are effective. Much of the $15 billion spent annually on substance-abuse treatment goes to clinics that practice techniques unsupported by data. As a result, states such as Delaware, North Carolina and Oregon have begun to mandate evidenced-based treatments that have been proved effective by scientific studies.

Evidenced-based therapies, which include prescription drug treatment and psychotherapy techniques, give young addicts the best opportunity to get clean – although some teens aren’t ready to take that opportunity. On the other hand, the successful therapies, which often require highly trained counselors and medical doctors, can stretch the resources of treatment centers.

The new techniques, supported and developed primarily by researchers and academics, have also sparked resentment among veteran counselors who work with patients on a daily basis. Still, interest in evidence-based therapies has been growing, particularly after Congress passed the mental health parity law. The law requires insurers to cover mental and physical illnesses at the same level and is likely to increase the amount spent on substance-abuse treatment. Dec. 23,