August 1973

A 20-Year Follow-Up of New York Narcotic Addicts

Author Affiliations

Cambridge, Mass
From the Harvard Medical School, the Cambridge Hospital, Cambridge, Mass.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1973;29(2):237-241. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1973.04200020065009

A group of 100 New York narcotic addicts first admitted to the US Public Health Service Hospital in Lexington, Ky in 1952 have been followed for 20 years. Over the period, 23% died—mostly of unnatural causes. In 1970 only 25% were still known to be using drugs; the status of 10% is uncertain; and, depending on definition, 35% to 42% have achieved stable abstinence. For 20 years, both voluntary hospitalization and imprisonment failed to produce abstinence.

Compulsory community supervision, usually via parole, and methadone maintenance were far more effective. There was no fixed age that addicts became abstinent and chronicity of past addiction did not destroy subsequent chances of abstinence.