Alcohol Abstinence Saves Lives

Thinking drinking A long-term follow-up study of alcohol-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.

Researchers led by Christine Timko of the Veterans Affairs Health Care System in Menlo Park, Calif., tracked 628 people who entered alcohol treatment, checking on them a year after completing the program and again 15 years later.

They found that 68 percent of the clients 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 longer 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 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Timko said the findings highlight the importance of persistence in getting alcoholics into treatment. “Our data indicate that treatment will reduce the chances of dying from alcohol-related problems, but it’s up to the programs to measure how well the patients are doing in treatment, and if they’re not responding, they need to continue to try to help those people,” Timko said.

Research 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.

From Join Together Online

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