Drug treatment outcomes and employment

The Learning and Work Institute was commissioned by Public Health England in October 2015 to conduct a Rapid Evidence Review of the relationship between employment, employment support and drug treatment outcomes. 

It is widely believed that a relationship between problem drug use and unemployment exists. This Rapid Evidence Review seeks to explore the evidence base regarding the relationship between drug treatment outcomes and employment. A comprehensive and systematic search of academic and gray literature was conducted identifying literature published between 1995 and 2015 focusing on the extent to which drug treatment alone influences employment outcomes, the role of employment in influencing drug treatment outcomes and what works in terms of supporting drug users to achieve employment outcomes. In total 83 papers were included within this review. The evidence indicates a strong relationship between drug treatment and employment. This relationship appeared to work in two directions with successful drug treatment improving the likelihood of achieving positive employment outcomes, and employment moderating drug misuse.

Specifically, the evidence suggests that for many, offering appropriate employment support as part of, or alongside drug treatment may increase post treatment employment. Being in employment or having increased employment stability was correlated with more positive drug treatment outcomes, including increased periods of abstinence, reduced relapse, and improved engagement with drug treatment though this did not apply to everyone. However, a lack of UK-based evidence limits the transferability of findings from the identified literature, highlighting the need for further UK specific research that explores the longer-term impacts of drug outcomes and employment as well as capturing the full range of benefits and costs.