Perceived unmet need for alcohol and drug use treatments and future use of services: Results from a longitudinal study

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Background: This study assessed the association of perceived need for and perceived barriers to treatments for substance use disorder (SUD) with subsequent use of these treatments in community settings. Methods: Drawing on data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), we examined the association of perceived need and barriers to SUD treatments in waves 1 of NESARC (2001-2002; n= 43,093) with the subsequent use of these treatments in the follow-up wave 2 (2004-2005; n= 34,625). Results: Only 8.5% (n= 195) of the 2333 NESARC participants with an untreated 12-month SUD in wave 1 perceived a need for SUD treatment. Participants who reported a perceived need were more likely to use these services in follow-up than those who did not report such a need (14.8% vs. 4.9%, adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 3.16, 95% confidence intervals [CI] = 1.70-5.90, P< 0.001). Among participants who perceived a need, those who reported pessimistic attitudes towards treatments as a barrier were less likely than others to use services in follow-up (aOR = 0.08, 95% CI = 0.01-0.73, P= 0.027). Other barriers, including financial barriers and stigma were not significantly associated with treatment seeking. Conclusions: The findings suggest the need for a two-pronged approach to improving treatment seeking for SUD in community settings: one focusing on enhancing recognition of these disorders, the other focusing on educating potential consumers regarding the benefits of SUD treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-64
Number of pages6
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013



  • Barriers to care
  • Help-seeking
  • Perceived need for treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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