Long-term Effect of Community-Based Treatment

Evidence from the Adolescent Outcomes Project

Published In: Drug and Alcohol Dependence, v. 107, no. 1, Feb. 1, 2010, p. 62-68

Posted on RAND.org on February 01, 2010

by Maria Orlando Edelen, Mary Ellen Slaughter, Daniel F. McCaffrey, Kirsten Becker, Andrew R. Morral

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A growing literature on adolescent drug treatment interventions demonstrates the efficacy of research therapies, but few rigorous studies examine the effectiveness of community-based treatments that are more commonly available to and utilized by youths and their families, the criminal justice system and other referring agencies. Even less is known about the long-term effects of these community-based treatments. This study evaluates the effects 72-102 months after intake to a widely disseminated community-based treatment model, residential therapeutic community treatment, using data from RAND's Adolescent Outcomes Project. Weighting is used to control for pre-existing differences between adolescent probationers disposed to Phoenix Academy and those assigned to one of six alternative group homes serving as the comparison conditions. Although Phoenix Academy therapeutic community treatment had positive effects on substance use and psychological functioning during the first 12 months following intake, we find no evidence of positive long-term effects on 16 outcomes measuring substance use and problems, criminal activity, institutionalization, psychological functioning and general functioning. The authors discuss the implications of these findings and the failure to maintain the effects observed during the first year follow-up.

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