The University of Chicago News Office
September 5, 1996 Press Contact: William Harms
(773) 702-8356

Federal Officials Release New NORC Study of Drug Treatment: Bottom Line: Treatment works

A new study by the nonpartisan National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, released Thursday shows that government-supported drug-treatment programs across the country effectively treat addictions to crack cocaine, heroin, alcohol and other drugs.

The study, released by the Department of Health and Human Services, is the largest of its kind ever conducted. Researchers tracked the progress of more than 4,400 patients in inner cities and rural communities in 16 states during 1993-1994. They also conducted follow-up interviews for more than 15 months after treatment.

Researchers found the drug-treatment programs:

  • Cut overall drug use in half
  • Reduced the number of dollars spent on drugs by two-thirds
  • Cut arrests by two-thirds
  • Cut homelessness by about 40 percent
  • Increased employment by about percent
  • Cut welfare by about percent
  • Reduced medical visits, mental health problems and HIV risk behaviors
Dean R. Gerstein, Research Vice President for Drug and Alcohol Studies at NORC, said, “To someone who is drug-dependent, getting clean is not the hard part. Staying clean–day after day, month after month–is the grinding struggle. That is where treatment really pitches in. It helps people stay in recovery. About half of the quick relapses that you would normally expect to see just don’t happen when people get the benefit of treatment. As treatment gets better, recoveries last longer.”

On the scientific significance of the results, Gerstein added, “We got very similar results two years ago in a statewide study sponsored by a Republican administration in California. Whoever takes the credit for supporting treatment, the bottom line is that publicly supported treatment is the only drug-control strategy for which there is consistent, extensive evidence of effectiveness.”

This national study by NORC was done in cooperation with the Research Triangle Institute of North Carolina.

The National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study (NTIES) is a congressionally mandated study sponsored by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The study collected data on patients who participated in a large federal demonstration program between July 1993 and October 1995. The CSAT program began in 1990.

The treatment programs studied by NTIES employed a mixture of new and old techniques to improve relationships among local programs and expand links between the programs and primary medical care providers. Provisions also were made to expand treatment of minorities, residents of public housing, and criminal-justice populations in and out of jail.

NTIES researchers interviewed 5,388 patients shortly after beginning treatment and up to 24 months after leaving treatment. For the preliminary results, the NORC-led team focused on 4,411 patients who were interviewed between five and 16 months after treatment, excluding treated inmates who were continuously in custody during the entire year before or after treatment.

The results show the number of patients using crack declined by 51 percent, other types of cocaine by 55 percent, marijuana by 50 percent and heroin by 46 percent. Patients in these programs were also substantially less likely to engage in theft, in violent crime and in drug selling, the most common form of crime in this group.

NTIES was released by HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala, andWhite House Drug Policy Director Barry McCaffery at a kickoff event for 1996 Treatment Works! Month, an annual campaign designed to raise awareness about the importance and effectiveness of treatment for substance abusers.

Further information is available from the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol or Drug Information (NCADI) at 1-800-729-6686, or on-line at the NCADI web site at or the NORC web site at
Last modified at 03:50 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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