Background: During the early 1990s in the United States, changes to the provision and financing of alcohol treatment services included reductions in inpatient treatment services and in private sector spending for treatment. We investigated trends in alcohol services utilization over the 10-year period from 1991–1992 to 2001–2002 among U.S. whites, blacks, and Hispanics.
Methods: Data come from 2 household surveys of the U.S. adult population. The 1991 to 1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey and the 2001 to 2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions conducted face-to-face interviews with a multistage cluster sample of individuals 18 years of age and older in the continental United States. Treatment utilization represented both total utilization and the use of alcohol services. Data analyses were prevalence rates and multivariate logistic regressions for lifetime utilization with drinkers and individuals with alcohol use disorders (AUDs).
Results: From 1991–1992 to 2001–2002, drinking-related emergency room and human services use increased for drinkers, while total utilization and the use of private health professional services and mutual aid decreased for individuals with AUDs. In drinkers and individuals with AUDs, blacks and Hispanics were less likely than whites to use private health professional care. Hispanics with AUDs were less likely than whites with AUDs to use alcohol or drug programs. Ethnicity interacted with alcohol severity to predict alcohol services utilization. At higher levels of alcohol severity, blacks and Hispanics were less likely than whites to ever use treatment and to use alcohol services (i.e., human services for Hispanic drinkers, mental health services for blacks with AUDs, and mutual aid for Hispanics with AUDs).
Conclusions: Our findings showed increases from 1991–1992 to 2001–2002 in alcohol services utilization for drinkers, but reductions in utilization for individuals with AUDs. Blacks and Hispanics, particularly those at higher levels of alcohol severity, underutilized treatment services compared to whites. These utilization trends for blacks and Hispanics may reflect underlying disparities in healthcare access for minority groups, and language and logistical barriers to utilizing services.