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Effects of Age and Life Transitions on Alcohol and Drug Treatment Outcome Over Nine Years

Derek D. Satre, Felicia W. Chi, Jennifer R. Mertens, Constance M. Weisner

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of age, common life transitions, treatment, and social support on outcomes 59 years after alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment intake. Method: Participants were patients from a large outpatient AOD treatment program in an integrated health plan. There were 1,951 participants interviewed at intake, of whom 1,646 (84%) completed one or more telephone follow-up interviews at 5, 7, and 9 years. Measures included AOD use based on the Addiction Severity Index; treatment; and changes in marital, employment, and health status in the years between each follow-up. We compared participants by age group (1839, 4054, and ≥55 years old at intake) and examined factors (time invariant and time varying) associated with outcomes at 5, 7, and 9 years by fitting mixed-effects logistic random intercept models. Results: Changes in marital, employment, and health status varied significantly by age. Factors associated with remission across Years 59 included being in the middle-aged versus younger group (p < .001); female gender (p < .001); not losing a partner to separation, divorce, or death (p < .001); not experiencing a decline in health (p = .021); having any close friends supportive of recovery (p < .001); and not having any close friends who encourage AOD use (p < .001). Additional predictors, including employment changes, varied by drug versus alcohol abstinence outcome measures. Conclusions: Negative life transitions vary by age and are associated with worse outcomes. Older age and social support are associated with long-term AOD remission and abstinence. Findings inform treatment strategies to enhance recovery across the life span. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 73, 459468, 2012)