When someone with a severe alcohol use disorder gets treatment, the effects extend far beyond the personal benefits to the individual receiving the treatment. It can also have a significant ramifications on the family's financial situation - greatly reducing the costs directly related to the family member's alcoholism.
Treatment can also reduce the costs associated with caring for the alcoholic family member.
Most research studies conducted on the effects of alcoholism on the family deal with domestic violence or depression in the family. But a group of scientists in Germany conducted a study that focused on the specific financial burdens of caring for an alcoholic.
Dr. Hans Joachim Salize of the Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany looked at the financial impact on 48 families when their alcoholic family member went through a 12-month alcohol treatment program.
They found that getting treatment for alcoholism reduced the family costs directly related to the alcoholism dropped from an average of $832.26 per month to an average of $178.89 per month. The costs went from 20.2% of the family's pre-tax income to only 4.3%.
Specific Expenditures Reduced
The study also found that the largest family expenditures related to the alcoholism were for the purchase of alcohol and cigarettes. After 12 months of treatment, the study found:
- Expenditures for alcohol dropped from $310.29 per month to $86.92.
- Costs of cigarettes dropped from $114.43 per month to $79.04.
- Cost of caring for the alcoholic went from $337.66 to $85.88 per month.
The above figures are averages for all of the 48 families. For some of them, cost of buying alcohol dropped to zero.
The Benefits of Treatment
The researchers also found that even when the alcoholic relapsed after treatment, having gone through the program still reduced the family's financial burden, but only by $89.26 a month.
Also, after twelve months of treatment, the average amount of time spent caring for the affected family member dropped from 32.2 hours per month to 8.2 hours per month, also improving the family's budget.
Dr. Salize said his study opens up an area of research that gets little attention.
"When health services and policymakers study the costs and benefits of treating alcoholism, they need to know that treatment has an immense financial effect not just on the alcoholic but also on his or her spouse, partner, children, and parents," he said. "The benefits of treatment reach well beyond the individual patient."
Source: Salize, HJ, et al. "Treating alcoholism reduces financial burden on care-givers and increases quality-adjusted life years." Addiction 25 September 2012.
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