AToN Center Shares Treatment Research Results

Photo of author

( — August 24, 2018) Encinitas, CA — When I joined the AToN Clinical Team in 2011, one of my responsibilities was to evaluate AToN’s performance as a treatment center.  I began to search in earnest for the benchmarks in the field of substance use and was dismayed to realize that the scientific application of research to clinical interventions was nearly non-existent. I attended conferences and noticed a common theme among some practitioners – which was, “this is how I got sober, so this is how everyone should get sober.”  Additionally, there was a lot of blame shifted to the clients, rather than assessing what the treatment center could be doing to improve their programs. 

As one who has a balanced career in providing treatment as well as conducting program evaluation, I had so many questions!  How do we, as a substance use treatment community, all get on the same page so we can get some answers about what is working in our field and what is not working? 

Here are a few questions that need to be agreed upon before meaningful comparison of treatment modalities and facilities can occur:

  • What is considered success?  Is it abstinence?  In that case . . .
  • What is considered abstinence?  No usage of the substance of choice, or no usage of ANY substance that can be considered addictive in nature?  This is an important delineation – especially since many who are new to recovery cannot fathom giving up all substances and consider themselves abstinent if they are not using their substance of choice.  This becomes a problem when attempting to quantify abstinence among a sample population.
  • What about the subset of individuals who report moderating their usage – do we consider that a “failure,” when the individual themselves sees this as a success?
  • If a person had a one day slip and quickly re-engaged in their recovery successfully, do we just discount the months (or years) of earlier recovery they gained?
  • When do we consider someone “sober” after a slip or a relapse?  When they have been sober 30 days?  Shorter?  Longer? 

Another difficulty I had was finding an actual benchmark for relapse rates! I have searched high and low – and we do not have any good answers. . . and this is largely because of the questions posed above. I have opted to use the criteria I located on the National Institute of Health Website.  Additionally, respondents to surveys may or may not be honest about the recent usage. A way around that is to collect genetic samples – but is that really feasible for a treatment center to undertake when evaluating the quality of their program? 

To solve this conundrum, I decided to assess a number of factors, rather than relying solely on the measure of abstinence, to evaluate how AToN performs as a program.  I conducted an exhaustive literature review and identified several factors that could be measured to identify if a resident at AToN Center experienced growth during their treatment episode here.  I reviewed resident’s change in coping skills, ability to increase their distress tolerance and their point of view on whether they felt confident in their ability to maintain their program of recovery after their treatment at AToN Center.  Happily, AToN’s residents had astounding improvements in all factors measured!  For a complete review, please access my report here

With the help a number of AToN Center Staff, I also assessed resident’s weekly symptom reduction in many domains, including depression, anxiety and cravings. You are able to access the results here. 

Finally, a nearly completed study of outcomes which has been ongoing since 2013 assesses the changes in AToN Alumni’s quality of life over the first year of their recovery.  Our Alumni experience a drastic increase in their quality of life as evidenced but the Christo Inventory of Substance Misuse Scale – find the details here.

While having and reporting this information is helpful, it doesn’t allow us to compare our program to other programs!  Add to that the suspicion that has (appropriately) been cast on treatment centers in substance use – how can one trust self-reported research?  To solve these two major concerns, AToN has joined with a third party, Vista Research Group, who conducts and analyzes AToN’s data and compares our results to other treatment centers who are utilizing the same service, as well as national norms.  

Specifically, our residents are monitored weekly while they are at AToN Center and followed two years after their discharge for a maximum evaluation of AToN’s treatment outcomes.  Our relationship with the Vista Research Group began in July 2017 and we just received one portion of our results – treatment that occurred while residents were at AToN Center.  Two major findings were that AToN exceeded national norms in client satisfaction AND treatment completion!  We are delighted to share the specifics of our findings here. 

Feel free to contact me about any questions at

Cassandra Cannon, Ph.D. – PSY24315

Clinical Director 

About AToN Center

AToN Center is a licensed, certified and accredited Residential Treatment Facility providing residential and detox services.

AToN Center

3250 Country Rose Cir
Encinitas, CA 92024
United States
(619) 639-7325