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Retention, early dropout and treatment completion among therapeutic community admissions


Shane Darke PhD, Professor, Gabrielle Campbell MCrim, Research Officer, Garth Popple Director of WHOS. Professor Shane Darke, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Tel: +61 02 93850331; Fax: +61 02 93850222; E-mail:


Introduction and Aims.The study aimed to ascertain the association between baseline client characteristics, drug use and psychopathology on length of stay, treatment completion and early separation in drug free therapeutic communities.

Design and Methods.Prospective longitudinal follow up of 191 treatment admissions to We Help Ourselves drug free treatment services.

Results.The median length of stay was 39 days. A total of 17% of treatment entrants dropped out in the first week, and 34% successfully completed the treatment program. Length of stay was independently associated with a previous history of treatment completion (β = 0.21, P < 0.001), higher Short Form-12 physical health scores (β 0.16, P < 0.05) and lifetime prison history (β = −0.15, P < 0.05). Independent predictors of early separation were recent prison release [odds ratio (OR) 2.64, confidence interval (CI) 1.08–6.42] and a lower perception of the likeliness of completing treatment (OR 2.38, CI 1.01–5.46), with independent predictors of treatment completion being male gender (OR 2.56, CI 1.19–5.51) and fewer stressful life events (OR 0.84, CI 0.72–0.97). Drug use and psychopathology were not related to length of stay, early separation or treatment completion.

Discussion and Conclusions.Different parameters of treatment stay were predicted by different variables. The fact that neither psychopathology nor primary problem drug was related to treatment indicates that these should not be seen as poor prognostic indicators for treatment success in a drug free treatment setting.[Darke S, Campbell G, Popple G. Retention, early dropout and treatment completion among therapeutic community admissions. Drug Alcohol Rev 2012;31:64–71]