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Research Summary

Can Treatment or AA Lower Mortality Risk in People With Alcohol Use Disorders?

The risk of death is higher in people with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) than in those without. To determine whether professional treatment or participation in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) could decrease this risk, researchers assessed rates and predictors of mortality over 16 years in 628 patients (53% men; 81% white) who sought help for their AUDs for the first time at study entry.

During follow-up, 121 patients died. The overall death rate was 22% for men and 17% for women. Sixty-eight percent of patients with a known cause of death died from an alcohol-related condition.

In analyses adjusted for baseline characteristics, death rates were significantly lower for subjects with the following 1 year after study entry:

  • no drinking-related problems or dependence symptoms
  • remission (i.e., abstinence or no heavy drinking or drinking-related problems)
  • shorter length (<3 weeks) of inpatient care combined with remission or no drinking-related problems
  • longer length (>8 weeks) of outpatient care combined with no drinking-related problems
  • longer length (>4 months) of AA participation, particularly when combined with any positive drinking outcome (e.g., remission)

Comments:

This study suggests that longer duration of outpatient care and AA participation—but not inpatient care—can help prevent death in patients with AUDs. Clinicians should aggressively engage patients with AUDs for whom initial inpatient therapy is insufficient to continue outpatient treatment and AA.

Joseph Conigliaro, MD, MPH

Reference:

Timko C, DeBenedetti A, Moos BS, et al. Predictors of 16-year mortality among individuals initiating help-seeking for an alcoholic use disorder. Alcohol Clin Exp Res.2006;30(10):1711–1720.


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