Addiction and Treatment Trends Poll Summary

Mental health professionals surveyed on addiction and treatment.

July 29, 2014, Adelphi University CHI Poll: Addiction and Treatment Trends

 Dr. Audrey Freshman of the School of Social Work discusses the poll results.

Addiction is a disease and addiction-related tragedies are ever increasing in this country. The nation’s growing use of opioids—a group of painkillers that includes prescribed drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin and illegal substances like heroin—has reached a national epidemic. Drug overdoses are poised to surpass traffic accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in 2014, according to the American College of Physicians. In 2011, about 110 Americans died each day from a drug overdose. Nationwide, heroin use has nearly doubled in the past five years, surging to nearly 670,000 users in 2012 from 373,000 in 2007, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Mental health professionals have weighed in on a vital national topic that examines treatment trends and how to improve the outcomes for those impacted directly and indirectly by this issue through the Adelphi University Center for Heath Innovation Poll released today. This poll was conducted among a random sample of 100 mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, LICSWs, LISWs and CSW-Cs.

According to the recent survey by Wakefield Research for Adelphi University, key takeaways from the Adelphi University CHI Poll results:

Patients Have Different Goals for Substance Abuse Treatment

Abstinence vs. Harm Reduction

Drug and alcohol addiction is widespread and often deadly. Nationwide, an estimated 23 million Americans need treatment for problems related to drug and alcohol abuse, according to the latest numbers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. A new survey by Wakefield Research for Adelphi University uncovers which programs mental health professionals believe are the most effective.

CHI Poll on Addictions and Treatment: Mental Health Pros Want Abstinence for Their Substance Dependent Patients

Treatment Goals

What is the best treatment approach? Mental health professionals take a tough stance in the debate between abstinence vs. harm reduction—a strategy aimed at reducing the consequences of substance abuse. A majority (61%) of mental health professionals say abstinence is their goal for the majority of their substance dependent patients rather than harm reduction (39%).

The Patients’ Take

Mental health professionals believe their patients have the opposite view when it comes to substance dependency treatment goals. 61% of mental health professionals think harm reduction is the goal of their substance dependent patients rather than abstinence (39%). But clinicians back abstinence for a reason.

Clean and Sober

Mental health professionals prefer patients who get clean to avoid the substance permanently. 63% of mental health professionals think a person who has been treated for substance dependence can’t ever use that substance again responsibly.

SPOTLIGHT: No Coverage

Insurance coverage for substance dependency treatments can be a challenge to get.

90% of mental health professionals think insurance providers inadequately cover substance addiction treatment.

While it is important to focus on improving treatment options for managing substance dependency, insurance coverage is just one of many external factors that need to be addressed.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Need of New Approach

Mental Health Professionals Open to New Methods

While there are many substance abuse treatment options, millions of Americans struggle to get clean—and stay clean. A new survey by Wakefield Research for Adelphi University reveals the pitfalls of common treatment practices, as well as the alternative methods mental health professionals favor now.

CHI Poll on Addictions and Treatment: Traditional Outpatient Programs are Commonly Offered but Often Fall Short


Out of Sync

The top 3 substance dependency treatment programs offered are individual counseling (80%), group counseling (48%), and traditional outpatient programs (43%). But sadly, treatment programs often fail. For example, only 28% of mental health professionals think traditional outpatient programs are mostly effective for a majority of their patients. What other factors underlie patient relapse?

Barriers to Success

Often times, it’s the patient’s background that sabotages substance dependency treatment. When clinicians are asked why certain treatment options are ineffective, the top reason is socio-economic status prevents patients from accessing treatment (73%). Also on the list, patients resist the spiritual aspect of 12-step programs (54%), treatment centers not having adequate resources (50%), and providers not effectively communicating with each other (43%).

 CHI Poll on Addictions and Treatment: What type of substance dependency interventions do mental health pros prefer to recommend?


New Path

Mental health professionals are eager to try new methods with their substance dependent patients. 67% prefer recommending new approaches for managing drug and alcohol addiction, such as motivational interviewing or CBT, rather than traditional interventions, such as a 12-step program (33%). Keeping an open mind could save lives.

Beyond 12-Steps

When seeking treatment, there are many alternatives. In fact, 93% of mental health professionals are open to new approaches to substance dependency treatment. These new approaches include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (84%)
  • Motivational interviewing (68%)
  • Self-management tools, such as SMART Recovery (41%)
  • Contingency management reinforcement (39%)

Building a viable treatment strategy may mean a variety of approaches.

High Tech Treatment

New technology may provide the push needed to improve treatment options.

92% of mental health professionals think high tech drug and alcohol addiction treatment will be standard in the next 10 years.

This includes mobile apps specific to drug and alcohol addiction treatment (59%), wearable devices for tracking treatment progress (54%), and individual counseling via video chat (53%).