How Well Does Treatment Work?

Many people don’t believe treatment works.

But as Time Magazine wrote in 1997, “Yet treatment for drug abuse has a failure rate no different from that for other chronic diseases. Close to half of recovering addicts fail to maintain complete abstinence after a year, about the same proportion of patients with diabetes and hypertension who fail to comply with their diet, exercise and medication regimens.”1

The following chart, taken from the National Institutes of Health website ( compares relapse rates for addiction with some other chronic diseases.


Relapse rates


In recent years, additional treatment drugs have been approved to help tamp down cravings and researchers continue to investigate the efficacy of new treatments.

So treatment does work, just not as well as one might like. You can’t overestimate the benefits that accrue to those who maintain sobriety for a full year. For the rest, however, multiple treatments will be required. Since addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease (for more click on Definition of Addiction), this is to be expected.

The fact that it’s predictable doesn’t make relapse any less excruciating to bear or terrifying to watch. But if you know relapse is a good possibility, it’s far less shocking and demoralizing when it happens.

For the more,  click on What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

For much more detail, including my experience, click on the Treatment Intro/Menu.

Click here to return to the Questions About Addiction Menu.


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