Effectiveness of Community-Based Treatment for Substance-Abusing Adolescents

12-Month Outcomes of Youths Entering Phoenix Academy or Alternative Probation Dispositions

Published in: Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, v. 18, no. 3, Sep. 2004, p. 257-268

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2003

by Andrew R. Morral, Daniel F. McCaffrey, Greg Ridgeway

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Whereas strong efficacy research has been conducted on novel treatment approaches for adolescent substance abusers, little is known about the effectiveness of the substance abuse treatment approaches most commonly available to youths, their families, and referring agencies. This report compares the 12-month outcomes of adolescent probationers (N = 449) who received either Phoenix Academy, a therapeutic community for adolescents that uses a treatment model that is widely implemented across the U.S., or an alternative probation disposition. Across many pretreatment risk factors for relapse and recidivism, groups were well matched after case-mix adjustment. Repeated measures analyses of substance use, psychological functioning, and crime outcomes collected 3, 6, and 12 months after the baseline interview demonstrated that Phoenix Academy treatment is associated with superior substance use and psychological functioning outcomes over the period of observation. As one of the most rigorous evaluations of the effectiveness of a traditional community-based adolescent drug treatment program, this study provides evidence that one such program is effective. Implications of this finding for the dissemination of efficacious novel treatment approaches are discussed.

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