Perceived Effectiveness of Medications Among Mental Health Service Users with and Without Alcohol Dependence

Published in: Psychiatric Services, v. 57, no. 5, May 2006, p. 695-699

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2005

by Mark J. Edlund, Katherine M. Harris

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OBJECTIVE: No consensus exists on the use of psychiatric medication among patients with co-occurring mental health and alcohol disorders. The authors investigated patterns of use of psychiatric medication and perceived effectiveness of mental health treatment among users of mental health care with and without alcohol dependence. METHODS: Data were obtained from the 2001 to 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The sample consisted of respondents who reported receiving mental health treatment in the past year (N=11,872). Rates of psychiatric medication use were compared between mental health care patients who were alcohol dependent and those who were not. Patient-reported effectiveness of mental health treatment was examined among alcohol-dependent and non-alcohol dependent patients who did and did not receive psychiatric medication. RESULTS: No statistically significant differences in rates of use of psychiatric medication were found between those with and without alcohol dependence (76.2 percent and 75.9 percent, respectively). Among alcohol-dependent patients, those who received psychiatric medication were significantly more likely than those who did not receive such medication to report that treatment helped a lot or a great deal (OR=2.87, 95 percent CI=1.57 to 2.56, p<.001). Among those who received psychiatric medication, no statistically significant differences were found between alcohol-dependent and nondependent respondents in patients' ratings of treatment effectiveness. CONCLUSIONS: Most alcohol-dependent individuals in mental health treatment received psychiatric medication, despite the lack of guideline support in this area. A large majority of those with alcohol dependence who received psychiatric medication reported that mental health treatment was effective.

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