The reduction of health care costs associated with alcoholism treatment: a 14-year longitudinal study

J Stud Alcohol. 1992 Jul;53(4):293-302. doi: 10.15288/jsa.1992.53.293.


This study utilized two separate research designs to examine whether the initiation of alcoholism treatment is associated with a change in overall medical care cost in a population of alcoholics enrolled under a health plan sponsored by a large midwestern manufacturing corporation. In the longest longitudinal study of alcoholism treatment costs to date, a review of claims filed from 1974 to 1987 identified 3,729 alcoholics (3,068 of whom received treatment and 661 of whom did not). In one design, a time-series analysis found that following treatment initiation the total health care costs of treated alcoholics--including the cost of alcoholism treatment--declined by 23% to 55% from their highest pretreatment levels. Costs for identified but untreated alcoholics rose following identification. In a second design, analysis of variance was used to control for group differences including pretreatment health status and age. This analysis indicated that the posttreatment costs of treated alcoholics were 24% lower than comparable costs for untreated alcoholics. The study provides considerable evidence that alcoholism treatment can reduce overall medical costs in a heterogeneous alcoholic population (white collar/blue collar; fee-for-service/HMO).

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / economics
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cost Control / trends
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Benefit Plans, Employee / economics
  • Health Care Costs / trends*
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / economics
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Motivation
  • Patient Compliance / psychology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Selection Bias