The prevailing treatment system generally claims success rates of 30 percent—a figure many experts view as dubious. But even if we take it at face value, by the industry’s own admission 70 percent of people who go into drug rehab come out no better than they went in. And some cases even worse. One 2015 study found opioid dependent patients receiving only psychological support were twice as likely to suffer a fatal overdose than those being treated with opioid replacement medications.
By contrast, dozens of studies show improved outcomes for opiate addicts who use medication in recovery.
This includes a World Health Organization report that found that when Spain eased laws governing medication-assisted treatment, and began using methadone to treat opiate addiction instead of abstinence-based programs, it experienced a significant reduction in overdose deaths, fewer instances of HIV, and an overall improvement in quality of life for drug users.
Yet three quarters of all opioid dependent patients in the U.S. are still treated without the use of medication, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).