How should rehab success be defined? We've looked at it from a parent's perspective, asking "If I send my child to this program, do they have a fighting chance to be in recovery one year from now?" As a result, we've defined treatment success as follows:
What percentage of the patients are reachable and claim to have met their treatment goals for
alcohol and non-prescribed medications for at least the last 30 days one year later?
Depending upon the details of their treatment, rehabs have a few choices about the design of their outcomes research:
- When the Outcomes Research "Clock" Starts: Rehabs which typically treat patients for relatively short periods of time should follow up with patients six months and one year after the date the patient discharges from treatment. Medication-assisted and other programs where patients are encouraged to remain for extended periods should conduct their outcomes research six months and one year after the patient starts treatment.
- How Treatment Goals Are Defined: Traditional abstinence-based rehabs typically define the goal of treatment as the non-use of alcohol or any non-prescribed medications. Other treatment programs allow patients to set their own usage goals by type of substance. Conquer Addiction allows treatment programs to set either type of goal.
The details of how they're conducting their outcomes research is outlined in the Success Rating box for each rehab who has been given a success rating by Conquer Addiction's judges.
Until recently, very few treatment centers have systemically followed up with their patients after they leave treatment to measure whether they're meeting their drug and alcohol usage goals. Part of the reason for this is that patients leaving rehabs are notoriously difficult to track, but it is also true that there hasn't been a concerted push by either consumers or leaders in the addiction treatment field to track post-treatment outcomes until recently.
As a result, the vast majority of rehabs still aren't doing outcomes research to prove how effective their treatment is. Rehabs which are not doing outcomes research but which have otherwise met Conquer Addiction's application requirements are included in the database without a star rating. Please note - the fact that a rehab is not doing outcomes research does not imply anything about the effectiveness of their treatment; it just means they haven't yet made an outcomes research investment.
What is a "Good" Treatment Success Rate?
The last major federally-funded addiction treatment research study was the Drug Abuse Treatment Outcomes Study (DATOS) conducted in the early 1990s. In this study, 36% of the 3,194 adult patients in abstinence-based treatment were reachable and claimed to have been abstinent for at least the last 30 days at one year post-treatment. Vista Research Group's Learnings from Three Years of Addiction Treatment Outcomes Research reported similar results from following up with several thousand patients discharged from high-quality commercial addiction treatment programs between 2016 and 2019. Vista's research found that 36% of adult patients were reachable and claimed to have been absinent for at least the last 30 days at both six months and one year post-treatment.
Conquer Addiction's Rating Scale
Conquer Addiction has asked treatment centers who are tracking their success rates to submit a summary of their research results for our review at least once per year. An independent panel of prestigious judges rates each treatment center that is doing outcomes research on a 1- to 5-star scale based upon the following:
5-stars: At least 40% of the clients were reachable at one year & claimed to have met their drug & alcohol treatment goals in the previous 30 days.
4-stars: At least 35% of the clients were reachable at one year & claimed to have met their drug & alcohol treatment goals in the previous 30 days.
3-stars: At least 30% of the clients were reachable at one year & claimed to have met their drug & alcohol treatment goals in the previous 30 days. Under the assumption that only treatment center leaders who are reasonably confident that their success rates will be better than average will make the significant investment to do outcomes research, Conquer Addiction will also award 3 stars to centers for which we can verify that they have started a legitimate outcomes research program within the last 14 months.
2-stars: At least 25% of the clients were reachable at one year & claimed to have met their drug & alcohol treatment goals in the previous 30 days.
1-star: At least 20% of the clients were reachable at one year & claimed to have met their drug & alcohol treatment goals in the previous 30 days.
No stars: Either Conquer Addiction has not been able to verify that the center is scientifically measuring its success rates, or the treatment center has reported that they were measuring their outcomes and then never submitted their results.
Additionally, since it takes two full years for a rehab to collect 12-month success rate data on a year's worth of their patients, Conquer Addiction will allow rehabs to use 6-month data for rating purposes during the first year they participate. Rehabs will be required to submit 12-month success rate data after they've been doing outcomes research for at least two years. Rehabs which have told Conquer Addiction that they are doing outcomes research and then don't submit any results within 15 months of the starting date of their research will lose their rating until data is received. Also, rehabs which have been previously rated and don't submit updated results at least every 12 months will lose their rating.
Detailed outcomes research rating rules can be downloaded here.