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There is general agreement that follow up study of patients with substance use disorders is difficult. Longitudinal research with any diverse population is hard, but this seems to present unique challenges. So many of the questions about longer term outcomes remain unanswered.
Almost all of the published studies that are available are on specific populations that have some requirement for follow. Therefore most of our thinking about outcomes research results from persons who are mandated to follow up for some reason. (Usually either legal or professional). This has left the largest and most difficult to study population largely unmeasured in any significant way. It is very rare for any for profit treatment center to follow patients after discharge for any significant period of time. Those that even try to do this kind of research quickly find that they lose contact with almost all (80%) within the first year. Many attempt to generalize from this information and form and idea of recovery rates. The reality is that we don’t really know what happens to most people after discharge from a primary addiction treatment setting. Follow up is just very difficult.
That being said we need more information in order to best serve people who have substance use disorders. We are committed to finding novel approaches to answer these questions. Preliminary results are coming in. New processes for collecting results are being developed. The goal is to use this information to develop better treatment and assessment methods