Alcohol and drug treatment among HMO patients

  • Many alcohol and drug treatment programs have been merged since the early 1990s.
  • Yet a study has found that alcohol-only and alcohol-and-other-drug dependent clients appear to have different treatment needs and risk factors for developing drug-related problems.
  • Those with an alcohol-and-other-drug dependency were more likely to be younger, male, less educated, African American, and have greater psychiatric and family/social problems.
  • Those with an alcohol-only dependency were much more likely to be older, female, Caucasian, and college educated than those individuals with a combined dependency.
Until approximately a decade ago, alcohol and drug treatment programs in the United States were separate. Each type of program had its own patients, policies and methods of treatment. Yet many individuals who were dependent on alcohol also used, and were often dependent on, other drugs. This might explain why numerous alcohol and drug treatment programs were merged in the early 1990s. The effectiveness of these combined treatment programs, however, remains unclear. A study in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research is one of the first to attempt to understand how the needs and problems of alcohol and drug patients may differ even though they are now usually treated in the same program.

Researchers interviewed more than 700 people seeking treatment in a program operated by their health maintenance organization (HMO). Clients were divided into two samples: those who were dependent only on alcohol (491 or 69%) and those who were dependent on both alcohol and other drugs (217 or 31%). The objectives were to identify both treatment needs as well as risk factors for developing substance abuse-related problems among the two types of clients.

"The two groups of clients in this HMO treatment population can be distinguished by demographic characteristics," explained Tammy Tam, a scientist with the Alcohol R

Contact: Tammy W. Tam, Ph.D.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

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