Alcohol abuse and misuse, largely accelerated by behavioral trends related to the pandemic, is becoming an increasing problem. Remote work made drinking at home much more acceptable and common. However, this has led to an alcohol use disorder (AUD) problem that’s affecting employers as well as employees.
Productivity is suffering and healthcare costs are escalating as a result. While this is a known problem for employers, they’re still struggling to properly address the issue. A McKinsey study found that only 20% of employers are prioritizing substance abuse disorder treatment yet 84% of employees say it’s a challenge to access care. Many treatment options available aren’t suited for AUD and fail to provide successful outcomes for those seeking help.
Our research shows that people struggling with AUD or people who have loved ones struggling AUD have preferences in treatment approaches that employers should be aware of. Patients and healthcare providers largely prefer specialization and members are more likely to stick with programs that have goals that align with them rather than traditional abstinence-based programs.
By understanding the needs of people who are struggling with this issue, employers can make more informed decisions about the treatment programs they’re providing their employees to improve their overall behavioral and mental health. By choosing the right program, employers can ensure the best outcomes for their employees.
Consumers prefer specialization over generalized addiction/experience with other substances
According to a survey we conducted in April of 2022, a significant majority of people who struggle with alcohol misuse (or have loved ones who do) vastly prefer getting treatment from an expert who specializes in alcohol use disorder. This is preferred over a generalized addiction treatment experience or treatment by providers whose expertise is with other substances such as heroin or cocaine.
This is a consistent medical trend in which patients would prefer a specialized experience for their specific problem, but it’s also important to note that many people struggling with AUD don’t consider themselves as “addicted”. They also don’t see themselves in the same audience as those struggling with substance abuse issues. This is largely why 84% of our respondents considered it important to receive treatment from an AUD expert.
If employers only offer generalized addiction treatment programs or lump AUD with other substance issues, they may find employees’ hesitation increases, resulting in less treatment and fewer successful outcomes.
AUD goals are different than traditional addiction/substance abuse treatment
Part of the reason people struggling with alcohol issues don’t see themselves as the same as, say, someone struggling with cocaine misuse or something similar is that their goals are different. Traditionally, these treatment programs have a singular outcome — abstinence.
However, many people struggling with alcohol use are looking to change their relationship with alcohol which doesn’t always lead to abstinence. Unlike cocaine, heroin, or other addictive substances, alcohol is socially acceptable and can, comfortably, be a part of an individual’s social life and interaction with others.
In our research, we found that 51% of respondents preferred a treatment program that’s focused on reducing consumption rather than abstinence. While not all treatment approaches consider recovery as simply reducing consumption, employers should consider programs that do.
Several AUD-focused programs use a harm reduction model that includes defining recovery as reducing consumption, which aligns with a recent update made by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Better still, some treatments take into account the members’ own desires and work with them to set goals that they want — and that they believe they can realistically achieve. This fosters success and is likely to lead to better outcomes, given the close relationship between the treatment and the participant.
Associated stigma can reduce program adoption
Stigma related to AUD is already a hindering factor that can increase overall hesitancy, resulting in reduced program adoption. However, there’s additional stigma when offering employees an addiction treatment that treats AUD the same as substance addiction. This can lead to a lower rate of successful outcomes, even for those who choose to be treated.
They may not stick with a more general program as long as they would with an AUD-specific approach and, because abstinence is often the sole goal, they may not consider the program right for them.
Reducing stigma is necessary to make members comfortable in seeking help and even having the initial conversations with employers and program ambassadors.
Offering AUD-focused treatment is necessary for more successful employee outcomes
When considering which kind of treatment to offer, it’s important to consider what will be most effective and lead to more successful overall outcomes for members. An increased adoption rate and successful outcomes will result in lower healthcare costs and a better quality of life. Employers will also benefit — productivity will increase, overall employee satisfaction can remain high, and employers will be recognized for their commitment to providing key behavioral and mental health services. By offering relevant programs to employers in their preferred manner, important metrics like retention and churn will also trend up and remain high.
Across our research as well as various other studies, it’s clear that a specialized AUD program is needed — one that provides treatment based on scientific evidence that results in more successful outcomes. Ria Health was created just to do that. Its method focuses on meeting patients where they are, works with members on setting their own goals, combines medication-assisted treatment as well as counseling — available whenever, wherever via telehealth — to promote program effectiveness.
Within 30 days, 70% members from our treatment program drop their WHO risk drinking level, which correlates with multiple factors such as reduced healthcare costs, improved mental health, and improved liver function.
To serve a wider audience and increase the total accessibility of Ria Health’s treatment, we’re excited to announce that we’ve secured $18M in our Series A funding round. This will allow us to scale our efforts and expand care delivery across the US and beyond our current coverage area of over 44 states.
To learn more about what people want from their AUD treatment program, check out our Preferential Treatment white paper available below. If you want to see if our program is the right fit for your business, reach out to us directly at [email protected] or [email protected].
Learn more about our findings by downloading our white paper today.