Understanding treatment delay among problem drinkers: What inhibits and facilitates help-seeking?

Felix Naughton, Elena Alexandrou, Sarah Dryden, Julian Bath, Mark Giles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: Problem drinkers are reported to take an average of nine years to seek specialist alcohol treatment after recognizing they have a problem. We undertook an in-depth qualitative study to better understand why this delay occurred.

Methods: In-depth semi-structured interviews with problem drinkers with varying levels of treatment experience (N = 19). The data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Findings: The resolution of drinking-related interference on a number of life domains emerged as the primary motivator for seeking help. These domains included social relationships, living conditions, criminality, poor health and social stigma. Where there was an absence of interference, treatment seeking behaviour was delayed. However, the influence of these domains was not always consistent; a delay influence for one individual sometimes acted as a help-seeking influence for another. The help-seeking pathway for many of these individuals was highly iterative and experience of receiving professional help often occurred before they had accepted that help was needed.

Conclusion: Problem drinkers primarily sought help to alleviate psychosocial, health and situational problems rather than to stop drinking per se. The findings highlight the challenges of engaging these individuals in professional support and the wider benefits of further understanding treatment seeking pathways for early problem detection and treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-303
Number of pages7
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention & Policy
Issue number4
Early online date3 Dec 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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