opioid-dependentWhen it comes to successful recovery the majority of addiction professionals will agree that residential treatment can be the most effective. Early recovery is a delicate time, when the pressures of the outside world still hold great sway over addicts and alcoholics. Ultimately, without the protection of a closed environment for an extended period of time, the risk of relapse is great.

New research suggests that young adults who are dependent on opioid drugs, like heroin and prescription narcotics, are better served by residential treatment than outpatient – showing higher levels of abstinence. The study comes from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Center for Addiction Services. Their findings indicate that a month-long, 12-step-based residential program with a strong aftercare program enabled almost 30 percent of opioid-dependent participants to stay clean and sober a year later.

“Our results suggest that abstinence-focused, 12-step residential treatment may be able to help young adults recover from opioid addiction through a different pathway than the more typical outpatient approach incorporating buprenorphine/naloxone treatment,” says John Kelly, PhD, of the Center for Addiction Medicine in the MGH Department of Psychiatry, senior author of the study that has been published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. “It’s always good to have different treatment options that may work better for different individuals.”

The study involved 292 young adult participants that entered a residential treatment program. The treatment center utilized what is known as the Minnesota Model Treatment, which is geared around the 12-step philosophy. The model includes detoxification, a number of evidence-based psychotherapeutic approaches, and engagement with 12-step groups like Narcotics Anonymous after discharge.

“We found that participants who met DSM-IV criteria for opioid dependence seemed to do better during residential treatment than did opioid misusers – those who reported some illicit opioid use in the past 90 days but did not meet dependence criteria, said Zev Schuman-Olivier, MD, study corresponding author. “Our findings indicate that opioid-dependent young adults might benefit from starting out with residential treatment and then linking up with continuing outpatient care after discharge.”

Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Addiction Services