Benefit-cost analysis of addiction treatment: Methodological guidelines and empirical application using the DATCAP and ASI

Michael T. French, Helena J. Salomé, Jody L. Sindelar, A. Thomas McLellan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Objective. To provide detailed methodological guidelines for using the Drug Abuse Treatment Cost Analysis Program (DATCAP) and Addiction Severity Index (ASI) in a benefit-cost analysis of addiction treatment. Data Sources/Study Setting. A representative benefit-cost analysis of three outpatient programs was conducted to demonstrate the feasibility and value of the methodological guidelines. Study Design. Procedures are outlined for using resource use and cost data collected with the DATCAP. Techniques are described for converting outcome measures from the ASI to economic (dollar) benefits of treatment. Finally, principles are advanced for conducting a benefit-cost analysis and a sensitivity analysis of the estimates. Data Collection/Extraction Methods. The DATCAP was administered at three outpatient drug-free programs in Philadelphia, PA, for 2 consecutive fiscal years (1996 and 1997). The ASI was administered to a sample of 178 treatment clients at treatment entry and at 7-months postadmission. Principal Findings. The DATCAP and ASI appear to have significant potential for contributing to an economic evaluation of addiction treatment. The benefit-cost analysis and subsequent sensitivity analysis all showed that total economic benefit was greater than total economic cost at the three outpatient programs, but this representative application is meant to stimulate future economic research rather than justifying treatment per se. Conclusions. This study used previously validated, research-proven instruments and methods to perform a practical benefit-cost analysis of real-world treatment programs. The study demonstrates one way to combine economic and clinical data and offers a methodological foundation for future economic evaluations of addiction treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-455
Number of pages23
JournalHealth Services Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2002


  • ASI
  • Addiction treatment
  • Benefit-cost analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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