Background: Most people with alcohol use disorder do not receive treatment, and primary care (PC)-based management of alcohol use disorder is a key strategy to close this gap. Understanding PC patients' perspectives on changing drinking and receiving alcohol-related care is important for this goal, particularly among those who decline alcohol-related care. This study examined perspectives on barriers and facilitators to changing drinking and receiving alcohol-related care among Veterans Health Administration (VA) PC patients who indicated interest but did not enroll in the Choosing Healthier drinking Options In primary CarE trial (CHOICE), which tested a PC-based alcohol care management intervention. Methods: VA PC patients with frequent heavy drinking who indicated interest in CHOICE but did not enroll were invited to participate. Twenty-seven patients completed in-person, semi-structured interviews. Interview transcripts were analyzed using iterative deductive and inductive content analysis. Results: Participants were mostly men (96%) and White (59%), and the mean age was 48. Seventy-four percent met criteria for alcohol use disorder, and the median number of past-week standard drinks was 41.5. Participants reported fewer alcohol-related problems, lower importance of/readiness to change drinking, and higher confidence in their ability to change than patients who enrolled in the CHOICE trial. Barriers fell into 5 domains: drinking fulfills need(s); reducing drinking or treatment is not needed; treatment is not effective/not acceptable; alcohol-related stigma; and practical barriers. Facilitators fell into 4 domains: reasons to change drinking; social support; treatment is acceptable/meets patients' needs; and practical facilitators. Participants discussed how Veteran identity and military experiences impacted drinking and willingness to receive care, which amplified multiple barriers/facilitators. Conclusions: This study identified barriers and facilitators to changing drinking and receiving alcohol-related care among VA PC patients who indicated interest but did not enroll in an alcohol care management trial. Findings can inform patient-centered interventions and support clinicians in engaging patients in care.
Keywords: Alcohol use disorder; Veterans Health Administration; alcohol treatment; primary care; qualitative.