Center for Community Research
1 E. Jackson
Chicago, IL 60604
Evaluation of Oxford Houses Reveals Low Substance Abuse After 24 Months
Chicago, IL – Sometimes simple solutions work best when it comes to solving even the most critical societal problems: Two studies to be released at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C., Aug. 18 and conducted by a team of researchers at DePaul University's Center for Community Research (CCR) conclude that recovering substance abusers who live together in self-governed home settings attain a phenomenal abstinence rate of 65 to 87 percent. This is in contrast to published evidence that a majority of substance abusers relapse after treatment.
Led by Leonard A. Jason, director of the center and a highly regarded community psychologist, the researchers evaluated participants in a national network of after-care homes called Oxford House. The recovery homes are designed for persons seeking to develop long-term sobriety skills. The unique feature of Oxford House is that the homes provide a supportive, mutual-help residential setting comprised of recovering peers and operated democratically by majority rule.
Other authors of the studies are: Joseph R. Ferrari, professor of psychology at DePaul and co-principal investigator; Margaret I. Davis, senior project director of CCR's national study on Oxford House; and Bradley D. Olson, senior project director of CCR's Illinois study on Oxford House and an addiction researcher at DePaul's CCR.
One study assessed 150 participants in Illinois who were randomly assigned to either an Oxford House or “usual care conditions” after undergoing treatment for addictions to alcohol or drugs. Usual care conditions, according to Jason, landed the participants in a number of environments, such as a friend or relative's home, a half-way house, or a rented apartment – all of which are likely to be located in high-risk environments. On the contrary, Oxford Houses are self-run and strategically located in low-risk, low-crime environments.
The OXFORD HOUSE participants and those in usual care settings were interviewed every six months for a period of 24 months. At the end of the two-year period, 65 percent of participants in Oxford Houses had refrained from substance use as compared to only 31 percent of participants living elsewhere. Oxford House residents also experienced higher positive outcomes in general including a higher level of monthly net income ($989.40 vs. $440.00) and lower incarceration rates (three percent vs. nine percent).
“Even we were amazed at the results,” said Jason. “These findings suggest tremendous public policy benefits for these types of low-cost, residential, non-medical care options for individuals with substance abuse problems.”
The second study collected data from residents living in some 213 Oxford Houses in 16 states around the country. Nearly 900 participants were interviewed every four months for a year. At the end of the 12-month period, 87 percent of the residents were still drug free. On average, about 65 percent of residents “cycle out” of Oxford House after a year, yet, according to the study–even among those who no longer resided at the recovery homes–the rate of relapse was extremely low. “We found that six months in Oxford House is what made a really big difference in recovery,” explained Jason.
According to Jason, the two most important implications of the findings are that peer-run, community-based recovery housing care, such as Oxford House, yields exceptional rates of success and that it is a cost-effective remedy to recidivism among substance abusers.
Each Oxford House is a non-crowded, rented, multi-bedroom dwelling where same-sex occupants are governed by elected house officers. As long as residents abide by house rules and pay their rent, there is no restriction on length of stay as long as they stay clean and sober.
Oxford House seems to be more cost effective because it is financially self-supported and non-medical, and professionals are not directly involved. Although absent on the premises, the role of the psychologist in community-based residential recovery appears to be an important one. According to Jason, psychologists can provide Oxford House's ancillary services that can improve the lives of the participants, help provide theoretical models explaining the reasons these programs work and assist with evaluating the effectiveness of these types of settings.
“We are beginning to look at this model and how it can be applied to a number of different groups, such as ex-offenders with substance abuse problems–for which recidivism is extremely high–the mentally ill and people with chronic illnesses, to name a few,” said Jason. “It's time for creative, simple solutions that address our social agendas.”
“This study on Oxford House by DePaul University demonstrates a cost-effective, long-term solution to keep people from drugs, increase employment, and reduce criminal recidivism,” said U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, (D-Ill.). “Most importantly, it takes a democratic, liberating approach to these problems. We need to spread the news about this model.” Davis, a supporter of the university's Oxford House research, is the author of the Ex-Offenders Self-Sufficiency Act designed to prepare ex-offenders for a healthy reentry into society.
DePaul University's Center for Community Research received $4.5 million in financial support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for the studies on Oxford House.
For more information contact Roxanne Brown at 773-383-1553.