Is residential treatment effective for opioid use disorders? A longitudinal comparison of treatment outcomes among opioid dependent, opioid misusing, and non-opioid using emerging adults with substance use disorder



Zev Schuman-Olivier, M. Claire Greene, Brandon G. Bergman, John F. Kelly

Drug and Alcohol Dependence

18 September 2014



N = 292 (18–24-year olds) residential treatment with strong linkage to continuing care.

•29% of emerging adults with opioid dependence were abstinent at 12 months follow-up.

•Emerging adults with opioid misuse, but not dependence, had fewest days of abstinence.

•Opioid misusers were more likely to use alcohol and cannabis during follow-up.

•Opioid misusers were less likely to engage in outpatient care during follow-up.



Opioid misuse and dependence rates among emerging adults have increased substantially. While office-based opioid treatments (e.g., buprenorphine/naloxone) have shown overall efficacy, discontinuation rates among emerging adults are high. Abstinence-based residential treatment may serve as a viable alternative, but has seldom been investigated in this age group.


Emerging adults attending 12-step-oriented residential treatment (N = 292; 18–24 years, 74% male, 95% White) were classified into opioid dependent (OD; 25%), opioid misuse (OM; 20%), and no opiate use (NO; 55%) groups. Paired t-tests and ANOVAs tested baseline differences and whether groups differed in their during-treatment response. Longitudinal multilevel models tested whether groups differed on substance use outcomes and treatment utilization during the year following the index treatment episode.


Despite a more severe clinical profile at baseline among OD, all groups experienced similar during-treatment increases on therapeutic targets (e.g., abstinence self-efficacy), while OD showed a greater decline in psychiatric symptoms. During follow-up relative to OM, both NO and OD had significantly greater Percent Days Abstinent, and significantly less cannabis use. OD attended significantly more outpatient treatment sessions than OM or NO; 29% of OD was completely abstinent at 12-month follow-up.


Findings here suggest that residential treatment may be helpful for emerging adults with opioid dependence. This benefit may be less prominent, though, among non-dependent opioid misusers. Randomized trials are needed to compare more directly the relative benefits of outpatient agonist-based treatment to abstinence-based, residential care in this vulnerable age-group, and to examine the feasibility of an integrated model.









Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee