A recent study researching drop-out rates of substance abuse treatment programs found that almost one-third of all participants drop-out and, therefore, do not complete their treatment. Researchers discovered this trend after analyzing an extensive amount of data from 151 different studies on SUD treatment facilities between the years of 1965 and 2016.

Dropping out of treatment is a significant issue, as drop-out rates directly correlate to relapse. This study aimed to find average drop-out rates and assess drop-out predictors in order to decrease these rates in the future. Given the prevalence and consequences of SUD treatment drop-outs, the issue merits continued research and study.

The Findings

The research found that those in treatment who excessively smoked cigarettes or used heroin were less likely to drop out of SUD treatment than participants who used stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamines. Furthermore, the studies rate stimulants as having the highest potential for dependency or addiction and subsequent mental impairment. Stimulant use may also lead to riskier and more impulsive behaviors. Additionally, withdrawal from stimulants is even harder since there are no approved medications to help alleviate withdrawal stress, making treatment completion more difficult.

Many of the studies utilized also reported higher drop-out rates among lower-income individuals and African American populations. Treatment programs characterized by more and longer treatment sessions were also associated with higher drop-out rates. Alternatively, drop-out rates were lower for studies involving individuals in treatment for alcohol.

Hope for the Future

The researchers hope that this study will influence others to explore varying reasons for high drop-out rates, as a means of creating solutions that will decrease drop-out frequency. Once a problem or pattern is identified, lasting solutions can be explored. Treatment success rates can then be positively influenced as a result.

Looking for Help?

Dropping out of treatment is a great predictor for relapsing or returning to substance use. Understanding the trends that motivate drop-out rates is imperative to make the improvements necessary to increase treatment success rates. Therefore, it is essential to continue building a foundation of knowledge as a means of refining treatment programs and their outcomes. At Fort Behavioral Health, we understand the challenges of entering treatment, the uniqueness of addiction, and the importance of obtaining a long-lasting recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us today at 844.332.1807.


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