Research Activities, January 2014

Wait times for substance abuse treatment affected by race and other factors

Disparities/Minority Health

Due to the often long wait for individuals to get into substance abuse treatment programs, many are likely to drop out before they actually receive treatment. Being black, referred by the criminal justice system, and receiving methadone increases one's chances of waiting longer than a month to enter treatment. Conversely, having a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS is linked to a lower likelihood of waiting more than one month, according to a new study.

Christina M. Andrews, M.S.W., and colleagues at the University of Chicago examined client and treatment program characteristics associated with wait times of 1 month or longer in a national sample of 2,920 clients from 57 substance abuse treatment programs in urban areas across the United States. They found that nearly 30 percent of clients waited more than 1 month to enter treatment after making an initial request for services. Only one program-level characteristic was associated with outcome. 

Clients entering methadone maintenance were almost three times more likely than clients entering outpatient programs to wait more than a month to enter substance abuse treatment. Clients with more severe substance use problems got treatment more quickly. But, it is unclear whether this is related to some aspect of motivation or availability on the part of the client, or a process of formal or informal triaging on the part of the treatment programs. The study was supported in part by AHRQ (T32 HS00084). 

See "Client and program characteristics associated with wait time to substance abuse treatment entry," by Christina M. Andrews, M.S.W., Hee-Choon Shin, Ph.D., Jeanne C. Marsh, Ph.D., and Dingcai Cao, Ph.D., in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 39(1), pp. 61-68, 2013.


Page last reviewed January 2014
Internet Citation: Wait times for substance abuse treatment affected by race and other factors. January 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.