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Study Examines Alcohol Treatment Successes and Barriers

Alcohol use can have a tremendous impact on a person's life, whether they abuse it themselves, or live with a person who has a dependence problem. Whether or not the person receives treatment and their success within that treatment depends entirely on their willingness to give up alcohol use.

The April 9 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Report entitled Alcohol Treatment: Need, Utilization and Barriers found that in 2007, 7.8 percent of persons aged 12 or older – or an estimated 19.3 persons – needed treatment for an alcohol problem in the past year.

For those individuals who needed alcohol treatment in the past year, 8.1 percent did receive treatment at a specialty use treatment facility. Another 4.5 percent felt that they needed treatment, but did not receive it. The final 87.4 percent of those needing alcohol treatment did not actually perceive that there was a need for it and therefore, did not receive treatment.

Even if a person believes that they should get help for an alcohol problem, it does not mean that they will actively seek or find help. Between 2004 and 2007, study averages show that the most common reasons for not receiving alcohol treatment among those who felt the need for it were not being ready to stop using alcohol at 42 percent and cost or insurance barriers at 34.5 percent.

Whether or not an individual believes that they are at risk for alcohol dependence or abuse, it is important to educate the public on the signs of alcohol problems. To further advance the efforts of reducing the number of people suffering in silence, communities must also expand screening for alcohol problems in primary care and in emergency departments. This helps to ensure that individuals are properly matched with appropriate intervention and/or treatment services.

In examining the current need within communities today, NSDUH asked respondents if there was any time in the previous year when they felt a need for treatment for their alcohol use but did not receive it. For those in such situations, they were also asked about their reasons for not receiving treatment.

Of those 7.8 percent of persons who needed treatment for an alcohol problem in the past year, the rate of treatment was twice as high for males as it was for females. In addition, the rate of treatment needed for young adults aged 18 to 25 was 2 to 3 times higher than that of other age groups.

For those who needed treatment for alcohol use, the adults in the 26 and older age bracket were more likely than adolescents and young adults to have received treatment at a specialty facility. There appeared to be little difference by gender in this area and only 4.5 percent of individuals who perceived a need for treatment did not receive it.

While barriers to receiving treatment commonly included not being ready to stop using alcohol and cost or insurance challenges, other reasons were also given that included the social stigma associated with receiving treatment, access issues, believing they could handle their own treatment and not knowing where to go to receive treatment.

The findings from this report indicate that there is a need for further education within the community on identifying signs of an alcohol problem and what help is already available. With more focus on providing the services necessary, without making them cost prohibitive, more people might be able to emerge from dependence with a new outlook on life.

Posted on July 6th, 2009

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