Background: Epidemiological studies consistently show low rates of alcohol treatment utilization among individuals with an alcohol use disorder (AUD). However, there is not as great consistency in the characteristics that predict alcohol treatment utilization.
Methods: Using data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), we examined attributes associated with treatment utilization among individuals with an AUD. We used stepwise backward selection logistic regression analysis to examine demographic and clinical predictors of treatment utilization, in order to identify opportunities to improve the delivery of services to this population.
Results: Only 14.6% of individuals who met lifetime criteria for an AUD reported ever having received alcohol treatment (including self-help group participation). A greater proportion of respondents with both alcohol abuse and dependence (27.9%) reported having received treatment, compared with 7.5% of those with alcohol abuse only and 4.8% of those with alcohol dependence only. Older individuals, men, and those who were divorced, had less education or more lifetime comorbid mood, personality, and drug use disorders were also more likely to have received treatment.
Conclusions: The majority of individuals with an AUD never receive formal alcohol treatment, nor do they participate in self-help groups. Although natural recovery from an AUD is well documented, participation in alcohol treatment is associated with improved outcomes. The data presented here should be taken into account when efforts are made to enhance alcohol treatment utilization.