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SAMHSA News - July/August 2008, Volume 16, Number 4

Discharges from Treatment: Latest Report Released

A new SAMHSA report, Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) 2005: Discharges from Substance Abuse Treatment Services, is shedding new light on treatment completion rates, length of stay, and characteristics of approximately 1.5 million discharges from alcohol or drug treatment facilities.

This report, the latest in a series of yearly updates, provides overall figures for the 34 states that report discharge data to TEDS.

It also breaks this information down into a variety of criteria—including client characteristics and length of stay—that can help provide greater perspective on the experiences of those who have undergone substance abuse treatment.

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Notable Findings

The largest age groups among all treatment discharges were age 31 to 40 (29 percent), age 21 to 30 (26 percent), and age 41 to 50 (25 percent). Fourteen percent were under age 21. However, the most common group for initiating use of their primary substance was between 15 and 17 years.

Alcohol was the most common primary substance, reported by 39 percent of discharges. The strongest predictor of treatment completion was the use of alcohol rather than other drugs. Clients discharged from all types of service combined were 82 percent more likely to complete treatment or transfer to further treatment if their primary substance was alcohol, after taking into account all other characteristics.

The treatment completion rate was highest among clients discharged from hospital residential treatment (67 percent), detoxification (65 percent), and short-term residential treatment (56 percent). Treatment completion rates were lower in longer-term and less-structured settings.

Not counting discharges receiving opioid replacement therapy (methadone), the median length of stay in treatment was greatest for discharges from outpatient treatment (76 days), followed by long-term residential treatment (53 days) and intensive outpatient treatment (46 days).

The report presents data on the reasons for discharge for 592,057 clients in outpatient treatment in 2005 in 33 states (see chart).

Reasons clients left treatment:

  • Completed treatment (36 percent)

  • Dropped out of treatment (29 percent)

  • Transferred to further treatment (12 percent)

  • Had treatment terminated by the facility (11 percent)

  • Failed to complete for other reasons (12 percent).

TEDS is an episode-based system, and its figures for discharges do not directly correspond to the number of individuals discharged from treatment programs in a given year. For example, one individual who had undergone treatment twice during the same year would be counted as two discharges in the TEDS report.

To access the TEDS 2005 discharges report online, visit For a print copy, contact SAMHSA’s Health Information Network at 1-877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727) or 1-800-487-4889 (TDD). Request inventory number SMA08-4314.

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Why Patients Leave Outpatient Treatment

Overall, 212,078 (36 percent) of outpatient discharges completed treatment, 73,652 (12 percent) were transferred to further treatment, 171,454 (29 percent) dropped out of treatment, 62,556 (11 percent) had treatment terminated by the facility, and 72,317 (12 percent) failed to complete treatment for other reasons. Table 3.1 also presents reason for discharge by State.

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