Table of contents

Evidence of what works

Background papers: Lifestyle and wider determinants :: Substance misuse in adults [Update in progress] :: Evidence of what works

Drug treatment is effective — National Treatment Outcomes Research Study [1] highlights the positive outcomes which include a reduction in illicit drug use, abstinence, reduction in criminal activity, lower risk of overdose and the spread of blood borne viruses, and better health, which benefit the individual, their family and society.

Gossop [2] also reviewed the evidence of the effectiveness of drug treatment from the last 30 years. Pharmacological interventions are shown to have better outcomes in terms of reduced illicit drug use, reduced criminal behaviour and lower levels of HIV risk, and better retention rates have been linked to methadone clients. Psychological interventions help in terms of greater treatment retention and fewer relapses, reduction in drug use. Residential rehabilitation has show positive outcomes in terms of improved rates of abstinence, drug injection and needle sharing. Needle exchange schemes reduce injecting risk behaviours, reduced public order problems, reduced HIV prevalence. Complementary therapies have been liked to better attrition.

Drug users in treatment commit fewer crimes — [3] offences halved when drug users went into treatment, particularly acquisitive crime. For those that triggered test on arrest, there was a reduction of 61% in follow up offences. They also found a link between positive outcomes and treatment duration.

National Guidance that is implemented: Drug Misuse and Dependence: UK Guidelines on Clinical Management Models of Care for Treatment of Adult Drug Users Nice Guidelines on Drug Misuse: Opioid Detoxification Nice Guidelines on Drug Misuse: Psychosocial Interventions Nice Guidance on the use of methadone and buprenorphine for opioid dependence Nice Guidance on the use of Naltrexone for the management of opioid dependence Reducing Drug-Related Harm: An Action Plan


[1]   Gossop M, Marsden J, Stewart D. National Treatment Outcomes Research Study: Changes in substance use, health and criminal behaviour during the five years after intake 2001; National Addiction Centre. .
[2]   Gossop M. Treating drug misuse problems: evidence of effectiveness 2006; National Addiction Centre.
[3]   Millar T, Jones A, Donmall M, et al. Changes in offending following prescribing treatment for drug misuse 2008; National Treatment Agency. .