Predictors of Alcohol-Treatment Seeking in a Sample of Older Veterans in the GET SMART Program


Address correspondence to Derek D. Satre, PhD, University of California at San Francisco, 401 Parnassus Avenue, Box 0984-OVS, San Francisco, CA 94143. E-mail:


OBJECTIVES:  To examine the predictive value of demographic characteristics and substance abuse indicators to explain treatment seeking for substance abuse problems by older male medical patients.

DESIGN:   Longitudinal analysis of screening data and treatment-seeking behavior.

SETTING:   Inpatient medical and outpatient substance abuse treatment center.

PARTICIPANTS:   Participants in the study were 855 medically ill male veterans aged 55 and older, who were screened for alcohol problems during inpatient medical treatment after clinician referral.

MEASUREMENTS:   The CAGE alcohol screen (Cut down on your drinking, Annoyed by criticism of your drinking, Guilty about your drinking, Eye-opener), drug use, and demographic measures administered at time of screening. Predictors of treatment seeking in the sample were examined using structural equation modeling.

RESULTS:   Expressed interest in treatment and later attendance at a pretreatment evaluation were associated with younger age and a higher CAGE alcohol screening score. Being unmarried and using drugs in addition to alcohol were associated with treatment interest but not with evaluation attendance. In the path model tested, the effect of higher CAGE score partially explained the effect of younger age on treatment seeking.

CONCLUSION:   The model examined shows utility in predicting alcohol-treatment seeking in this sample. Age-related factors may deter treatment seeking by older male medical inpatients.