AN ECONOMIC EXPLANATION FOR THE INEFFECTIVENESS OF ADDICTION TREATMENT
CECIL E. BOHANON
The addiction literature treats as a stylized fact that formal treatment programs have little long-run efficacy. Treated addicts have no better prospects for long-run abstinence than do addicts who do not enter treatment programs. A logical consequence of this is that if treatment enhances the prospects of long-run abstinence for some treated addicts, then it diminishes the prospects for others. This paper offers a simple cost-benefit argument explaining how treatment can interfere with certain natural processes conducive to permanently abandoning an addiction. The paper argues that a stable remission from addiction depends on the historic costs of the addiction relative to the historic benefits as perceived by the user. Because treatment intrinsically mitigates the cost of addiction but does not directly influence the benefits of addiction, treatment can make returning to an addiction more likely. Copyright 1991 Western Economic Association International.
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