A long-term follow-up study of addiction-treatment graduates found that those who stayed sober a year after treatment were much more likely to be alive 15 years later than those who reverted to drinking, Reuters reported Sept. 25.
Researchers led by Christine Timko tracked 628 people who entered addiction treatment, checking on them a year after completing the program and again 15 years later.
They found that of those who died 68 percent had died of alcohol-related causes within a decade-and-a-half, a rate 40 percent higher than would have been expected in the general population.
Patients who had spent three weeks or less in inpatient care were more likely to have died, probably because they had more serious drinking problems to begin with, Timko said.
Other high-risk groups included older patients, those with more symptoms of alcohol dependence, and those who were not married.
However, patients who had been abstinent one year after treatment were less likely to have died, as were those who spent eight weeks or more in outpatient care, or four months or longer attending AA meetings.
The findings highlight the importance of persistence in alcoholics staying in treatment or attending AA meetings. “Our data indicate that treatment will reduce the chances of dying from alcohol-related problems.” Timko said.
BriefTSF training for alcohol intervention.
Reference: Timko, C., et al. (2006) Predictors of 16-Year Mortality Among Individuals Initiating Help-Seeking for an Alcoholic Use Disorder. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.