Cost-effectiveness analysis of four interventions for adolescents with a substance use disorder

Michael T. French, Silvana K. Zavala, Kathryn E. McCollister, Holly B. Waldron, Charles W. Turner, Timothy J. Ozechowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use among adolescents in the United States continues to be a serious public health challenge. A variety of outpatient treatments for adolescent substance use disorders have been developed and evaluated. Although no specific treatment modality is effective in all settings, a number of promising adolescent interventions have emerged. As policy makers try to prioritize which programs to fund with limited public resources, the need for systematic economic evaluations of these programs is critical. The present study attempted a cost-effectiveness analysis of four interventions, including family-based, individual, and group cognitive behavioral approaches, for adolescents with a substance use disorder. The results indicated that treatment costs varied substantially across the four interventions. Moreover, family therapy showed significantly better substance use outcome compared to group treatment at the 4-month assessment, but group treatment was similar to the other interventions for substance use outcome at the 7-month assessment and for delinquency outcome at both the 4- and 7-month assessments. These findings over a relatively short follow-up period suggest that the least expensive intervention (group) was the most cost-effective. However, this study encountered numerous data and methodological challenges in trying to supplement a completed clinical trial with an economic evaluation. These challenges are explained and recommendations are proposed to guide future economic evaluations in this area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-281
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Adolescent substance use interventions
  • Adolescent treatment outcomes
  • Behavioral and family-based interventions
  • Cost-effectiveness analysis
  • Substance use disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neuroscience(all)


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