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Data Examines First-Time and Repeat Substance Abuse Treatment

Posted in Alcoholism Treatment

No matter how effective a drug abuse treatment program, there is always the chance of relapse. In fact, a common pattern among substance abusers is relapse after a period of abstinence. According to the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) on substance abuse treatment admissions in 2006, repeat admissions were more likely than first time admissions for specific substances.

During 2006, nearly a quarter of all admissions to substance abuse treatment were aged 18 to 25. If medical professionals and policymakers were to understand the characteristics of repeat admissions in this age group, they may be better equipped to develop treatment strategies that can promote a successful outcome in initial treatment and prevent relapse later on.

Those substance abusers in the age range of 18 to 25 who used heroin and other opiates as their primary substance of abuse were repeat substance abuse treatment admissions 27 percent of the time, versus 12 percent for first time admissions. When multiple substances were used, repeat admissions occurred 67 percent of the time, versus 56 percent for first time admissions.

This division changed when the primary substance reported was alcohol or marijuana. When the primary substance was alcohol, repeat admissions were only 26 percent versus 35 percent for first time admissions. For marijuana, 22 percent were repeat admissions, as 28 percent were the primary substance of abuse.

Repeat admissions within this age range tended to be kept in the Northeast at 61 percent and the Midwest at 52 percent. At the same time, less than one third of substance abuse treatment admissions of the same age in the South were only 31 percent and in the West were 40 percent.

Within the studied age range, men and women accounted for the same proportions of first-time and repeat admissions. Repeat admissions were more likely than first-time admissions to be White, 74 percent versus 67 percent, and less likely to be Black at 10 percent versus 14 percent. At 10 percent versus 14 percent, repeat admissions were also less likely to be Hispanic.

For repeat admission patients, the average age of first use was younger than for first-time admissions of the same age. This difference ranged from five to 14 months, depending on the substance of abuse.

The criminal justice system seemed to be the principal source of referrals to substance abuse treatment for both repeat admissions at 46 percent and first-time admissions at 52 percent. At the same time, self or individual referrals and abuse care providers accounted for a higher proportion of repeat than first-time admissions.

Among those repeat admissions, patients were more likely than first-time admissions to have Medicaid for their health insurance. In fact, repeat admissions were consistently six to nine percentage points more likely than first-time admissions to have Medicaid for each single year of age. Among the group studied, both first-time and repeat admissions were nearly equally likely to have private types of health insurance.