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New Report Details the Patient’s Journey through Treatment and Recovery

Addiction Policy Forum's Patient Journey Map Shares Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Experiences

June 15, 2022

Addiction Policy Forum’s Patient Journey Map was developed through the input of patients in treatment and recovery from substance use disorders. The map underscores the obstacles and positive points patients encounter across seven distinct phases, from onset to finding long-term, stable recovery.

The qualitative study included 60 Life Course History interviews of individuals in recovery from a substance use disorder (SUD) from 22 states and Canada.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Average age of first use is 14 years old, with the earliest initiation at 5 years old and the oldest at 19 years old.

  2. 1 out of 4 patients struggle with polysubstance use disorder and 98% report using multiple substances during active addiction.

  3. 85% patients report a family history of SUD, with an average of two previous generations with SUD history.

  4. 90% of patients experienced Adverse Childhood Events and the average ACEs score was 4.3; 47% of patients reporting an ACEs score of 5 or higher.

  5. Significant barriers encountered as patients try to find help, including high levels of stigma; the complexity of navigating the substance use disorders care system; wait times; the high costs of treatment; red tape payer policies such as fail first and prior authorization; and transportation difficulties.

  6. Multiple services utilized, not a single intervention. On average, patients utilized four different services for treatment and recovery support, not a single treatment or intervention. Patient feedback shows the need for layered interventions across three critical domains: 1) biological, or physical health, 2) psychological, and 3) social.

  7. Engaging in treatment and lifestyle modifications are concurrent, not sequential, in finding stable recovery. Lifestyle changes are cited by patients to be as critical to success as treatment and recovery services.

Map of Seven Phases of Treatment and Recovery

“We worked with individuals in recovery from all different types of substance use disorder to better understand the critical elements to finding stable recovery from addiction,” shared Jessica Hulsey, Executive Director of Addiction Policy Forum. “The Patient Journey Map highlights the challenges and pain points experienced, along with the bright spots, which provide insight for healthcare providers, policymakers, criminal justice systems and communities to improve treatment, recovery services, and prevention strategies.”

This research was conducted as part of the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Mapping Patient Journey in Drug Addiction Challenge.


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