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NIDA. (1997, October 1). DATOS Documents Dramatic Decline In Drug Abuse Treatment Services. Retrieved from

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October 01, 1997

Drug Abuse Treatment Outcome Study (DATOS) researchers report a widening gap over the last decade between patients' needs for support services that go beyond basic treatment techniques such as drug abuse counseling and the availability of those services. Such support services address medical, psychological, family, legal, vocational, and financial problems with which many drug abusers need help to stay in treatment, reduce substance abuse, and improve other areas of social functioning.

Graph of patients treatmentPatients in Treatment Who Needed But Did Not Receive Support Services: TOPS vs. DATOS. Patients in the drug abuse treatment programs studied in DATOS reported unmet needs for additional support services much more often than did patients surveyed in TOPS, the earlier study, which covered treatment admissions from 1979 to 1981. * Short-term inpatient programs were not studied under TOPS.

The investigators compared the type and number of both core drug abuse treatment services and support services with those that had been delivered a little over a decade before with the Treatment Outcome Prospective Study (TOPS). "What we found was alarming. In every problem area studied, the type and number of support services had decreased from TOPS to DATOS, while the need for those services had increased," says Dr. Bennett Fletcher, chief of NIDA's Services Research Branch.

Dr. Rose Etheridge and her colleagues at the National Development and Research Institutes in Raleigh, North Carolina found that more than half of DATOS patients in all four types of treatment-outpatient methadone, long-term residential, outpatient drug-free, and short-term inpatient - did not report receiving many services that they said they needed.

Some 65.3 percent of DATOS patients in outpatient methadone programs reported that they did not receive any support services during the critical first three months of treatment compared to 49.5 percent in TOPS. In outpatient drug-free programs, 60.2 percent of DATOS patients said that they did not receive such services compared to 18.2 percent of TOPS patients.

Few gender differences were found in patient reports of services received and unmet service needs after three months in treatment. Only small gender differences were found in unmet needs in DATOS compared to TOPS.


  • Etheridge, R.M.; Craddock, S.G.; Dunteman, G.H.; and Hubbard, R.L. Treatment services in two national studies of community-based drug abuse treatment programs. Journal of Substance Abuse 7:9-26, 1995.