Study Suggest Treating Alcoholism Benefits Family Financially

Have you ever needed to care for a loved one who suffers from a chronic health condition or disease? For that matter, have you ever needed to care for a loved one who has an acute health condition or disease?

Assuming responsibility…comes naturally

Of course, we’ve probably all experienced caring for a sick or injured loved one. Naturally we jump in, take responsibility, we rearrange our work day, maybe we take a leave of absence from our job, maybe we have to give up our career. Perhaps our toddler is diagnosed with autism or attention deficit disorder (ADD) or dyslexia. Maybe our spouse is injured on the job and needs constant assistance for a short or long term disability. Maybe our spouse or child returns from a military assignment with a permanent disability. Additionally, elderly parents may suddenly become our responsibility. They may need day care-givers, assisted living arrangements, they may need to move into our home. It is probably safe to say that all of these life changing events take a toll on our emotions, physical well being, mental health, and our finances for a short period of time or forever.

What if the chronic or acute diagnosis is addiction?

If you live with an alcoholic or addict, then you know all about the emotional, physical or mental health toll. But have you ever considered what the disease of addiction can do to your financial well being or your family’s monthly budget? Consider the financial impact brought on my lost work days, loss of a driver’s license, the cost of traffic violations, a DUI defense, the cost of alcoholic beverages, increased health insurance premiums or auto insurance premiums, the loss of a career…

New study examined the impact of alcoholism treatment on a family’s financial condition 

A small study was conducted by Hans Joachim Salize, PhD, of the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany. His colleagues included Christian Jacke, Sven Kief, Michael Franz and Karl Mann. An early view of  the report “Treating Alcoholism Reduces Financial Burden On Care-givers And Increases Quality-Adjusted Life Years” was available on-line September 25, 2012, in Addiction.

Study overview

Here is an overview of the study’s design and findings:

  • 48 German families participated in the study, each family had an alcoholic family member.
  • 81% of those assessed were spouses or partners of the alcoholic, while 8% were parents and 10% were adult children who were the care-givers.
  • Researchers assessed alcoholism-related financial burden on the primary informal care-giver prior to the alcoholic starting inpatient or out-patient treatment at one of three psychiatric university hospitals and 12 months after detoxification and withdrawal.
  • Most patients remained sober through the follow-up time; however, a relapse at some point was experienced by 27%.
  • Prior to the alcoholic receiving treatment, the family member (care-giver) spent 32 hours a month assisting, supervising or caring for the alcoholic.
  • Following treatment this care-giving time was reduced to 8 hours per month.
  • Prior to treatment monthly non-medical expenses directly related to the family member’s alcoholism totaled up to $868 (most of which was spent on alcohol and cigarettes).
  • 12 months after treatment monthly non-medical expenses dropped to an average of $182.
  • Family’s average costs associated with alcoholism decreased to 4% of total pre-tax family income from 20% of pre-tax income prior to the alcoholic receiving treatment.

Some final thoughts…

MedPage Today commented: “The researchers noted that their sample was similar to national averages for family income but cautioned about the small sample size and lack of a control group.” The researchers added: “Therefore, all results and conclusions must be considered as exploratory, the findings suggest an influence, but cannot be interpreted as simply the effect of alcoholism treatment.”

Scientific and sociological studies always prompt more questions and that is a good thing. We look forward to more research in this area. It is probably safe to suggest that any family who has had a love one find sobriety and live a program of recovery will attest that the family can find recovery, too. And a family’s  recovery offers emotional benefits, mental health benefits, physical health benefits…and yes, even financial benefits. 

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