Heroin Addiction Recovery Statistics
Heroin’s particular pharmacological properties, combined with the hazardous conditions and methods in which it is used (read: injected), makes it a uniquely addictive drug with uniquely grim statistics.
While lasting recovery is possible when the right treatment is applied, there are, behind the available heroin addiction recovery statistics, all too many stories of failed abstinence, lifelong addiction and premature death.
A seminal study of heroin recovery and mortality
Between 1962 and 1964, the California Civil Addict Program (CAP) sampled 581 male heroin addicts ages 18-45. CAP was a mandatory drug treatment program for heroin-dependent criminal offenders.
Thirty-three years later, 242 surviving members of the sample were interviewed and tested. (For more information about the study, see Hser YI, Hoffman V, Grella CE, Anglin MD: A 33-year follow-up of narcotics addicts.) Just over half, 55.8 percent, tested negative for heroin use. About twenty percent (20.7) tested positive, and 10.5 percent refused to provide a urine sample. Fourteen percent were incarcerated and not tested. Among those that had died, the most common cause of death, at 27 percent, was accidental poisoning or drug overdose, 45 percent of which was heroin-related.
In all, 47 percent of the surviving members of the sample were, at the time of the final assessment, classified as in recovery, which was defined as five years of abstinence from heroin (or other opioids).
A case for methadone
The original CAP study did not set out to analyze treatment effectiveness, yet a separate study of the same sample did measure participation in methadone maintenance treatment and presence of legal supervision. (See Yih-Ing Hser, Kazuo Yamaguchi, Jane Chen and M. Douglas Anglin: Effects of Interventions On Relapse To Narcotics Addiction: An Event-History Analysis.) The data indicate that both legal supervision and methadone maintenance (MM) treatment lowered the risk of relapse, with methadone showing the greatest impact on abstinence. (Methadone is known as a partial opioid agonist; while it shares similar pharmacological properties with heroin, it is not intoxicating when administered properly.)
The study’s authors offered the following conclusion: “Long-term narcotics addicts who cannot remain abstinent without MM need to be maintained on MM indefinitely or that treatment programs should apply intensive relapse prevention strategies during and after methadone maintenance intervention.”
In 2000, the National Institute on Drug Abuse released the findings of a study that further underscored the effectiveness of a variety of heroin addiction medications. The study compared treatment results in 220 heroin addicts between the 21 and 55 years of age. The volunteers were randomly assigned to one of four treatment types: levomethadyl acetate, buprenorphine, high-dose methadone, or low-dose methadone. Rehab retention rates ranged from 72.7 percent in the high-dose methadone group to only 20 percent in the low-dose methadone group.
Looking at the heroin addiction recovery statistics from the past few decades, a clear narrative has emerged: pharmacological treatments—those that go beyond the initial detox period—are very effective in lowering the risk of relapse.
Note to reader
If you or someone you love is seeking the best heroin addiction treatment, we invite you to contact Alta Mira today to learn more about our core recovery program, an innovative inpatient rehab program that focuses on family involvement, above-and-beyond care and a lifetime commitment to every client. To schedule a free consultation call 866-922-1350.