Substance abuse treatment as a preventative tool for opioid use: A cautionary tale [2018]

Objective. Using a large panel sample of men who have been released from prison, the current study seeks to explore whether substance use treatment before and after release from prison helps reduce opioid use.

Methods. To explore how pre-release and post-release substance abuse treatment might restrain opioid use, we estimate a two-level mixed-effects model which regresses opioid use at several waves of data onto both treatment measures and control variables.

Results. Pre-release substance use treatment is not related to opioid use after release from prison. Although post-release substance use treatment is statistically significant, the direction of the post-release substance abuse treatment effect demonstrates that increased odds of opioid use are found among those who participated in treatment programs.

Conclusions. Substance use treatment does not appear to have the desired effect on opioid use for those coming home from prison. Instead, it appears to gradually increase opioid use over time. Due to the possibility that returning persons may establish deviant peer ties in substance use treatment programs, there is a strong substantive need to better understand the implications of substance abuse treatment programs on opioid misuse and abuse.

John H. Boman IV & Thomas J. Mowen

Journal of Substance Use, Volume 23, 2018 – Issue 6