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How many alcoholics who get help stay sober?

It’s hard to say. Data on the effectiveness of treatment programs is scarce, but Idaho has just started to track some patients.

Reliable information is practically nonexistent on whether alcoholics who go through treatment stay off alcohol in the long run, says Patrick Neeser, coordinator of a Boise outpatient treatment center.

“There’s very few long-term studies or data-gathering tools to follow people over the long run, five to 10 years, to be able to legitimately say, ‘This is our success rate,’ ” said Neeser, a licensed clinical social worker who works for the Walker Center outpatient program.

Neeser believes people don’t recover because they don’t get treatment that lasts long enough or is intense enough to meet their needs.

Some patients need a kind of “Cadillac” care that hasn’t been available anywhere in the United States since the heyday of the drug counterculture in the 1960s, he said. It’s too expensive.

That care started with detoxification and up to 90 days in residential treatment, followed by three, six or nine months of outpatient care, time in “sober living facilities,” and then a “three-quarter house” where patients lived until they found jobs and were ready to leave. The whole process could take two years.

“The more treatment you can get within the first two years, the better your chances of recovery,” Neeser said.

So far, the Boise area is short of affordable resources for detoxification – the first step to recovery. Patients in detox are getting alcohol out of their bodies. That can take three to five days.

Plans to add a 24-bed treatment center, with 12 beds for detox, are on track. Ground-breaking is set for March, Ada County spokeswoman Laura Wylde said.

The center, which will include beds for people with mental illnesses, is the work of a coalition of private and public sources, including Ada County and the city of Boise.

A private, $4 million, 92-bed drug and alcohol treatment center could be open in Nampa by next fall, according to its developer. The project cleared its next-to-the-last hurdles last week before the Nampa City Council.

In an effort to gauge the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment, the state of Idaho is just starting to gather data on patients who get public funding for treatment, including many from the criminal-justice system.

Alcohol treatment is the most successful of addiction treatments, according to the state Department of Health and Welfare.

So far, the data show that in the past two years, the percentage of alcoholics in treatment who completed the program more than doubled, to 60 percent. By comparison, less than 40 percent of methamphetamine addicts in a program successfully completed treatment.

Treatment for all addictions, including alcohol, dramatically reduces homelessness and unemployment, according to the study.

No information on long-term outcomes is available yet, Idaho Health and Welfare spokeswoman Emily Simnitt said.

Despite the lack of hard evidence, Neeser is not willing to say anyone is untreatable.

The closest he can come is to quote from Alcoholics Anonymous, which says people who do not recover “are usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.

“Many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.”

source:  The Idaho Statesman

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