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Family Benefits From Treating Alcoholism | Everyday Health Treating alcoholism.

WEDNESDAY, September 26, 2012 (MedPage Today) — Treating alcohol addiction reduces its burden on the family budget and improves life for those who live with alcoholic patients, German researchers found.

Direct expenditures for alcohol and related items dropped from 20 percent of the family's total pretax income to just 4 percent at 1 year after starting treatment, according to Hans Joachim Salize, PhD, of the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, and colleagues.

Time spent caring for the alcoholic dropped by a factor of four and quality of life in the family rose as well, the group reported online in Addiction.

"These are important but often neglected additional measures of the burden on family members and also treatment benefits," they wrote.

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While the effects of alcoholism on the partners and family members of addicts are generally agreed to be enormous, studies have typically looked only at specific aspects, like its impact on domestic violence, they explained.

So for a more comprehensive estimate, the investigators assessed the primary informal caregiver living in the house with an alcoholic patient at baseline and then 12 months after the affected individual started in-patient or out-patient treatment at one of three psychiatric university hospitals in Germany.

Most of those assessed were spouses or partners (81 percent) along with some parents (8 percent) and adult children (10 percent) that acted as caregivers.

Most of the patients remained clean through follow-up, though 27 percent had a relapse at some point.

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Family members spent an average 32 hours a month caring for, assisting, and supervising the alcoholic at baseline, which was the equivalent of $274 in minimum-wage nursing wages in Germany that "may be valued as an additional financial burden."

That time dropped to just 8 hours a month at follow-up after treatment, which was evenly split between in- and out-patient programs.

That benefit tended to be greater when the addicted family member didn't relapse, but in-patient treatment wasn't associated with a greater impact than out-patient programs.

The average cost in alcoholism treatment to gain one quality life-year for family members was $26,193 overall but just $7,024 with out-patient treatment for addiction, both of which fall well within accepted thresholds for cost-effectiveness.

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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.

"Therefore, all results and conclusions must be considered as exploratory," they warned, adding that "the findings suggest an influence, but cannot be interpreted as simply the effect of alcoholism treatment."

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