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Building the Science of Addiction Treatment

The development of an evidence base supported by the research is necessary before conclusions can be drawn about any particular practice. Rigorous evaluation requires systematic, standardized description of target population, program practices, and the theoretical relationship between clients served, practices and desired outcomes. Interventions must be shown to improve outcomes that are meaningful to participants, and that are measured objectively in research conducted by independent investigators. In very simplistic terms, the evidence base is built by:

  • Observation;
  • Careful description and measurement;
  • A determination of what goes with what;
  • A determination of the mechanism that leads to success under certain conditions and with which populations; and
  • Citing the specific results that can be anticipated.

In the "Science of Addiction" section of this website, learn more about how to find and interpret the science of addiction treatment.

Several noteworthy efforts have set explicit criteria for conducting studies to establish the evidence base for an intervention, for using completed studies to determine the degree to which an intervention is evidence-based, and for weighing the evidence about an intervention to decide whether it should be recommended for adoption (Leff, et al, 2001). These include:

  • The United States Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (Guidelines for the Format and Content of the Clinical and Statistical Sections of an Application);
  • The International Conference on Harmonisation Evidence-based Practices (ICH, Guidance on Statistical Principles for Clinical Trials);
  • The criteria for empirically validated treatments developed by a task force of Division 12 of the American Psychological Association, a report commissioned by Division 12 of the American Psychological Association published in a report titled, A Guide to Treatments That Work (Nathan and Gorman, 1998); and
  • What Works for Whom, a review of psychotherapy efficacy prepared for the National Health Service in the United Kingdom by Roth and Fonagy (1996).






















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