TUESDAY, Sept. 25, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Treating alcoholics greatly reduces the financial burden their addiction places on their families, according to a small new study.
Researchers looked at 48 German families with an alcoholic member. After 12 months of treatment, family costs directly related to the family member's alcoholism fell from an average of $832 per month to an average of $178 per month.
The average costs associated with alcoholism decreased from about 20 percent to slightly more than 4 percent of the total pre-tax family income, the study found.
In cases of relapse, treatment for alcoholism reduced the financial burden on families by an average of $80 per month.
Two of the largest alcoholism-related costs to families prior to treatment were alcoholic beverages (an average of $310 per month) and cigarettes (an average of $114 per month). One year into treatment, those costs fell to $87 and $79 per month, respectively.
The researchers also found that, after 12 months of treatment, the average amount of time spent caring for the alcoholic family member fell from 32 hours per month to eight hours per month.
The study was published online Sept. 24 in the journal Addiction.
"We're opening up an area of addiction research that doesn't receive much attention," lead author Dr. Hans Joachim Salize, of the Central Institute of Mental Health, in Mannheim, said in a journal news release.
"When they look at effects on families, addiction studies mainly focus on problems such as domestic violence and depression, not on the financial burden of caring for an alcoholic.," Salize said. "But when health services and policymakers study the costs and benefits of treating alcoholism, they need to know that treatment has an immense financial effect not just on the alcoholic but also on his or her spouse, partner, children and parents. The benefits of treatment reach well beyond the individual patient."
The American Psychological Association has more about alcohol use disorders and their treatments.