What do we know about the indicators used in the evaluation of the effectiveness of substance abuse intervention programs offered to judicialized clients: A scoping review
The relevance and usefulness of program evaluation in the field of social and criminological intervention is no longer in question. Indeed, it is now recognized that such an exercise allows public organizations to account for their performance and to improve it. As for social workers, program evaluation, and more precisely the data that come out of it, is very useful in allowing them to apprehend their actions differently and to understand the ins and outs of them. However, although valued, it is an exercise that comes with its own challenges and limitations, which can be enough to dampen the spirits of researchers who would like to engage in it. One of these challenges lies in the operationalization of the concepts and indicators used to conclude on the effectiveness (or not) of an intervention. This difficulty is notable in the case of substance abuse programs offered to a judicialized clientele. Substance abuse is a complex and multifactorial problem, which makes its operationalization more complex. This scoping review reports on the different indicators taken into account in the evaluations of the effects of substance abuse programs offered to a judicialized clientele conducted since the year 2000. A total of 90 articles were identified and analyzed. Despite the fact that substance use and delinquency are multi-dimensional and complex issues, only 37% of the studies assessed parameters other than substance use or delinquency recidivism to evaluate the effectiveness of programs. Thus, little nuance can be made in the conception of effectiveness. The recognition of the progress that can be made in the harm reduction approach is also affected by this vision. Considering that substance use is a long-term problem, it is interesting to note that only 38% of the studies observed it over a period of more than one year. Although the harm reduction approach is increasingly being used in the addiction field, it appears that in practice, programs (and the evaluation of their effectiveness) are still largely based on whether or not the behaviour is occurring.