RAND DPRC Insights

Vol. 3, No. 1, 2008

A monthly report on key public policy findings of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center

African Americans Complete Alcohol Treatment at Lower Rates than Whites

Alcohol-related health problems are two to five times as prevalent among ethnic and racial minorities as they are among whites, despite similar lifetime prevalences of frequent problem drinking. The reasons for this have not been well understood, although they have obvious implications for reducing racial and ethnic health disparities—a national priority. RAND DPRC undertook a series of analyses to shed light on one possible contributor to the disparity in alcohol-related health problems: differences between white and minority alcohol treatment outcomes. The analyses were performed on intake and discharge records from all publicly funded outpatient and residential alcohol treatment recovery programs in Los Angeles County from 1998 to 2000. Sophisticated statistical analyses were used to isolate the contributions of different factors to the problem. These are a few of the major findings:

  • African Americans complete treatment at lower rates than whites (18 vs. 27 percent outpatient; 31 vs. 46 percent residential), whereas Hispanics and whites complete treatment at similar rates (see the graph).
  • Forty percent of the outpatient treatment completion disparity between African Americans and whites could be explained by patient characteristics, particularly economic resources; only 7 percent of the residential disparity could be so explained.
  • Approximately a third of the outpatient treatment completion disparity could be explained by differences in the neighborhoods of the treatment facilities attended by African Americans vs. whites.
  • African Americans and Hispanics are much less likely to receive residential treatment (as opposed to outpatient) than whites. The completion rate disparity between African Americans and whites could be cut by one-fifth if African Americans were to receive residential treatment at the same rate as whites do.

These findings suggest some of the contributors to a significant alcohol treatment disparity between whites and minorities in Los Angeles County and begin to indicate what might be done about it. However, there is much about the disparity—such as the roles of patient economic resources and treatment facility neighborhoods—that is not yet understood, and it is uncertain whether these factors are the same in other locations.

African Americans Complete Alcohol Treatment at Lower Rates than Whites


Racial disparities in completion rates from publicly funded alcohol treatment: Economic resources explain more than demographics and addiction severity

Jacobson JO, Robinson PL, Bluthenthal RN

Full Report »

A multilevel decomposition approach to estimate the role of program location and neighborhood disadvantage in racial disparities in alcohol treatment completion

Jacobson JO, Robinson P, Bluthenthal RN

Full Report »

Are racial disparities in alcohol treatment completion associated with racial differences in treatment modality entry? Comparison of outpatient treatment and residential treatment in Los Angeles County, 1998 to 2000

Bluthenthal RN, Jacobson JO, Robinson PL

Full Report »

DPRC Insights is distributed by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, a joint endeavor of RAND Health and RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment. Copyright © 2008 RAND Corporation. RAND® is a registered trademark.

We respect your privacy. To subscribe or unsubscribe to this monthly newsletter, please visit the DPRC subscription page. We encourage you to forward this newsletter to colleagues and friends. Send comments and suggestions to dprc_insights@rand.org.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world.

RAND Corporation, 1776 Main Street Santa Monica, CA 90401-3208