Academic skills of chronically unemployed drug-addicted adults

August F. Holtyn, Anthony DeFulio, Kenneth Silverman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: The strong association between unemployment and drug addiction suggests that employment interventions are an important and needed focus of drug-addiction treatment. The increasing necessity of possessing basic academic skills to function in the workplace may require that some individuals receive educational training along with vocational training. Objective: This study investigated the academic skills of drug-addicted and chronically-unemployed adults (N= 559) who were enrolled in one of six studies conducted at the Center for Learning and Health in Baltimore, MD. Methods: Upon study enrollment, academic skills in math, spelling, and reading were examined using the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT-3 or WRAT-4) and educational history was examined using the Addiction Severity Index-Lite. Results: Although participants completed an average of 11 years of education, actual academic skill level was at or below the seventh grade level for 81% of participants in math, 61% in spelling, and 43% in reading, and most participants were classified as Low Average or below based on age group norms. Despite the fact that participants in this analysis were studied across several years and were from diverse populations, rates of high school completion and academic skill levels were remarkably similar. Conclusions: Programs designed to improve the long-term employment status of drug-addicted individuals may benefit from the inclusion of basic adult education; future research on the topic is needed. Although establishing basic skills does not directly address chronic unemployment, it may help individuals obtain the jobs they desire and function effectively in those jobs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-74
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Academic skills
  • Drug addiction
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Poverty
  • Therapeutic Workplace
  • Vocational training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Occupational Therapy


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