Newswise — Only a minority of adults with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) seek treatment for it. Although women are more likely than men to seek treatment for most medical or psychiatric disorders, men are more likely to seek alcohol treatment. To understand the basis for differences in alcohol service use, researchers used a national, longitudinal study that included data on treatment utilization, the perceived need for help, and reasons for not seeking help for an AUD.  They analyzed data from nearly 2,600 white, African-American, or Hispanic adults with a diagnosis of alcohol abuse or dependence in 2000-2001 who were re-interviewed in 2004-2005.

The researchers found that women were about half as likely as men to use any alcohol service and even less likely than men to use specialty services, such as rehabilitation or detoxification, or 12-step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.  Only one in 20 individuals who had used no alcohol treatment services thought that they needed such treatment, with no difference by gender. Men and women also identified the same number of treatment barriers and ranked the frequency of these barriers similarly. However, women were twice as likely as men (47% vs. 24%) to think that a problem would get better by itself—the most frequent reason for not seeking help—and men were much more likely than women to report unsuccessful past efforts to get help (19% vs. 3%) and thinking that no one could help them (17% vs. 5%).

These findings are consistent with the results of previous studies showing that women were less likely than men to utilize alcohol services.  Based on these results, the authors recommend that interventions aimed at getting people into alcohol treatment address the low rate of problem recognition and tailor efforts to gender-specific barriers to help reduce the disparity between men and women in the use of treatment services.

Journal Link: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research