Longitudinal substance use and biopsychosocial outcomes following therapeutic community treatment for substance dependence

Petra K. Staiger, Paul Liknaitzky, Amelia J. Lake, Stefan Gruenert

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11 Citations (Scopus)


The Therapeutic Community (TC) model is considered an effective treatment for substance dependence, particularly for individuals with complex presentations. While a popular approach for this cohort across a number of countries, few studies have focussed on biopsychosocial and longer-term outcomes for this treatment modality. This study reports on substance use, dependence, and biopsychosocial outcomes up to 9 months post-exit from two TC sites. Methods: A longitudinal cohort study (n = 166) with two follow-up time points. Measures included substance use, dependence, subjective well-being, social functioning, and mental and physical health. Generalized Linear Models were employed to assess change over time. Results: At 9 months, 68% of participants reported complete 90-day drug abstinence. Alcohol frequency and quantity were reduced by over 50% at 9 months, with 32% of the sample recording 90-day abstinence at 9 months. Both alcohol and drug dependence scores were reduced by over 60%, and small to medium effect sizes were found for a range of psychosocial outcomes at 9 months follow-up, including a doubling of wellbeing scores, and a halving of psychiatric severity scores. Residents who remained in the TC for at least 9 months reported substantially better outcomes. Conclusions: With notably high study follow-up rates (over 90% at 9 months post-exit), these data demonstrate the value of the TC model in achieving substantial and sustained improvements in substance use and psychosocial outcomes for a cohort with severe substance dependence and complex presentations. Implications for optimal length of stay are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Drug and alcohol
  • Outcomes
  • Residential rehabilitation
  • Substance use disorder
  • Therapeutic Community

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