Treatment Research

Predictors of Substance Abuse Treatment Completion or Transfer to Further Treatment, by Service Type

In Brief

  • In 2005, clients discharged from short-term residential treatment were more likely to complete treatment than clients discharged from long-term residential, outpatient, or intensive outpatient treatment settings.
  • Significant predictors of treatment completion or transfer among clients who were discharged from outpatient, intensive outpatient, long-term residential, or short-term residential treatment included: alcohol as the primary substance of abuse, less than daily use at admission, being over age 40, having 12 or more years of education, being White, referral to treatment by the criminal justice system, and being employed.
  • Among clients who were discharged from intensive outpatient treatment, men were more likely than women to complete treatment or transfer to another program or facility; however, among clients who were discharged from outpatient or long-term residential treatment, women were more likely than men to complete treatment or transfer to another facility.

Among adults who seek treatment for an alcohol or drug abuse problem, many do not complete an entire course of treatment. This finding is a concern given the research showing that length of stay in treatment is one of the strongest predictors of positive treatment outcomes.1,2 Identifying factors that predict treatment completion is an important step towards understanding what leads to successful treatment.
The Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) is an annual compilation of data on the demographic characteristics and substance abuse problems of those admitted to and discharged from substance abuse treatment. TEDS also collects information on reasons for leaving substance abuse treatment. These include treatment completion, transfer to another substance abuse program or facility within a single episode of treatment, left against professional advice (i.e., dropped out), terminated by the facility (i.e., discharge was not because the client dropped out, was incarcerated, or any other client reason), and other reasons, such as death.3 Clients’ treatment may be terminated by a facility for a variety of reasons, such as not following facility rules or exhibiting violent behavior.
This report focuses on the 973,000 clients who were discharged from outpatient, intensive outpatient, long-term residential (more than 30 days), and short-term residential (30 days or fewer) treatment in 2005.4 Specifically, this report examines the proportion of clients discharged who completed treatment or transferred to further treatment and the demographic and substance use characteristics that predict treatment completion and transfer. Because treatment completion and transfer to further treatment represent positive conclusions to a treatment episode, understanding the characteristics of clients who are completing treatment or transferring to further treatment may assist providers to tailor programs that will yield more successful outcomes for their clients.