Addiction Treatment Needs Wider Reach

Addiction treatment programs have lower success rates in low socioeconomic groups

January 30, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Rehab can help some addicts quit alcohol and drug abuse. However, rehab doesn't work for everyone. Proper funding, being able to get and hold down a job and access to education could be key factors in successful rehabilitation.

A recent study looked at rates of completion of alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs across races and ethnicities in the US. The study’s findings showed low education, unemployment and non-intensive outpatient treatments predicted low completion rates for treatment programs.

"Seek out and stick with treatment for alcohol or drug abuse."

Brendan Saloner, PhD, health services and policy researcher from the University of Pennsylvania, and Benjamin Lê Cook, PhD, a senior scientist at the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research at the Cambridge Health Alliance and an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, teamed up to investigate socioeconomic barriers to addiction treatment.

For the study, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provided their 2007 Treatment Episode Data Set to give researchers numerical and demographic information on addiction treatment in the US.

Around 60 percent of people seeking treatment for alcohol or drug abuse were white, compared to around 40 percent of black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian-American minorities combined.

The researchers found that low education, unemployment and having been discharged from non-intensive outpatient treatment programs were linked to not completing alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs. These results were found to be independent of race or ethnicity.

Non-intensive outpatient treatment meant the patients did not live at a treatment facility or attend treatment sessions more than once per day.

When researchers adjusted the rates of completing alcohol and drug treatment programs for socioeconomic backgrounds, little to no difference between race and ethnicity could be found.

Black and Hispanic people were 4 to 8 percent less likely than white people to complete alcohol treatment programs. For drug treatment program completion, black and Hispanic people were between 1 to 8 percent less likely to complete treatment than white people.

Treatment completion was considered low across all groups, but especially low in black and Hispanic groups. The authors believed low completion rates in black and Hispanic groups were due to socioeconomic factors.

Dr. Saloner said, “Our findings show troubling racial disparities in the completion of alcohol and drug abuse programs, and they point specifically to socioeconomic barriers that make it difficult for minority groups to access and sustain treatment.”

He continued, “For example, in both alcohol and drug treatment groups, black and Hispanic patients were more likely than white patients to be homeless. But, disparities among the groups were found to be lower in residential treatment settings, indicating that access to residential treatment could be particularly valuable for these patients.”

Lowest completion rates per substance abused were found in heroin and opiate treatment programs.

Authors recommended better funding, and tailored intervention and outreach attempts could improve treatment for substance abuse in lower socioeconomic groups and therefore improve treatment program results.

Socioeconomic status may be a barrier to successful completion of alcohol and drug treatment programs.

This study was published in January in Health Affairs.

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the National Institute of Mental Health provided funding for this project. No conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 25, 2013
Last Updated:
January 30, 2013