But there is another option. And that is to treat addiction as reversible. The premise here would be that addicts need saving, not accompaniment to the abyss created by their own degradation. Reversing addiction works, and is moreover cheaper than harm reduction models.
Long-term residential rehab (the only effective kind) costs $60-70,000 per bed annually, each bed serving 2.5 addicts per year. After eight years, every bed’s clean “graduates” will have saved government a million dollars.
In 2009, Montreal-based Portage, since 1970 Canada’s foremost practitioner of the therapeutic-community approach to rehab, issued a report: “Summary of a longitudinal outcome study of addicted male and female adults and adolescents between 2003 and 2008.” The study’s 122 adolescents and 230 adults were followed at 6, 12 and 18 month intervals after program participation. Both programs were highly successful, even if participants did not complete them.
Eighteen months after leaving the Laurentian centre where the study was conducted, hallucinogen, amphetamine and cocaine use had decreased by an astonishing 85% overall. Hospitalizations and contact with the justice system decreased by 86.8% and 92% respectively, while full-time employment increased by 55%.