Adults with serious mental illness and comorbid alcohol dependence are at high risk for both high utilization of crisis-driven health care services and criminal justice involvement. Evidence-based medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for alcohol dependence may reduce both crisis service utilization and criminal recidivism. The authors estimated the effect of MAT on behavioral health treatment utilization and criminal justice outcomes for this population.
Relevant administrative data were merged from several public agencies in Connecticut for 5,743 adults ≥18 years old who had schizophrenia spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, or major depressive disorder comorbid with moderate to severe alcohol dependence and who were incarcerated for at least one night during the study window (2002–2009). Longitudinal multivariable regression models were used to estimate the effect of MAT compared with other outpatient substance abuse treatments on inpatient mental health and substance abuse hospitalizations, emergency department visits, criminal convictions, and incarcerations.
MAT was associated with significant improvements in clinical outcomes in the 12 months following initiation compared with non-MAT comparison treatment, including greater reductions in mental health hospitalization and emergency department visits and greater improvements in psychotropic medication adherence. No benefits of MAT were found for most criminal justice outcomes, except for significant reductions in felony convictions among adults with bipolar disorder.
MAT is underused for treating alcohol dependence, especially among adults with serious mental illness. These results suggest that MAT can have important benefits for clinical outcomes in this population. More research is needed to improve its use in this patient population as well as to address barriers to its availability.
Allison G. Robertson, Ph.D., M.P.H., Michele M. Easter, Ph.D., HsiuJu Lin, Ph.D., Linda K. Frisman, Ph.D., Jeffrey W. Swanson, Ph.D., Marvin S. Swartz, M.D.
The American Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 175, Issue 7, July 01, 2018