Improving treatment delivery outcomes

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Alcohol and drug addiction is a major public health problem worldwide.  Harmful alcohol use, one of the leading preventable causes of death, accounts for 2.5 million deaths per year worldwide.  According to the World Health Organization, at least 15.3 million people worldwide have drug use disorders.  While there is a large unmet need for treatment of alcohol and drug use disorders in most countries, it is also the case that those who receive treatment have a high probability of relapsing.  Given these estimates, it is imperative to gain a better understanding of how people change and how to improve treatments for alcohol and drug use disorders.

To improve the treatment of alcohol and drug use disorders recent research has focused on innovative new approaches.  First, there is a growing trend toward personalized medicine applications to alcohol and drug use disorders, including maximizing treatment outcomes by (1) matching treatment types to genetic factors, (2) developing adaptive treatments that provide specific treatments based on initial treatment response; and (3) using quantitative methods to better understand and subsequently target processes of change that predict relapse.  Second, the development of novel treatments for alcohol and drug use disorders that have great potential for improving the outcomes of existing alcohol and drug treatments.  Recent research has examined mindfulness-based relapse prevention, computerized interventions for continuing care, and brain stimulation techniques to maximize learning in cognitive-behavioral treatments.  All of these approaches have promising preliminary findings and could greatly improve treatment outcomes for alcohol and drug use disorders.


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Katie Witkiewitz