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Each year, substance abuse treatment programs in the United States record approximately 150,000 admissions of youths under the age of 18. Nevertheless, little is known about the effectiveness of the types of community-based services typically available to youths and their families. Researchers interviewed youths treated in 11 adolescent programs that had been identified as having suggestive evidence of effectiveness, in order to learn whether they had better outcomes a year after treatment admission than they would have had at other facilities. The study failed to find strong and persuasive evidence of greater treatment effectiveness at the facilities studied. Relative effectiveness may be difficult to measure because facilities serve different populations, because the study examined relative rather than absolute treatment effects, or because large and significant treatment effects might exist for each evaluated treatment program but might be no longer detectable a year after admission. However, there were consistently small positive effects for direct measures of substance use.

The research described in this report was prepared for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and was carried out under the auspices of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, a joint endeavor of RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE) and RAND Health.

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