Those who receive formal treatment for alcohol and other substance use problems make up only a small part of those who are experiencing symptoms of dependence or harms because of their use. One Canadian study estimated that for every one problem drinker who accesses treatment, another 10 do not (Burton & Williamson, 1995). Many problem drinkers say that they prefer to change on their own (Cunningham, Sobell, Sobell, Agrawal, & Toneatto, 1993). Research shows that many, in fact do recover on their own. For example, two Canadian studies showed that about 77% of people who recovered from an alcohol problem for at least one year, did so without formal aid (Sobell, Cunningham, & Sobell, 1996).
Alberta Health Services: Addiction and Mental Health (formerly known as and referred to here as “AADAC”) tracks information about all clients who receive publically-funded addiction treatment in Alberta. Among all AADAC clients between April 2007 and March 2008, 62% reported alcohol as a reason for seeking treatment. 61% of those in adult services and 51% of those in youth services reported alcohol as a reason for seeking treatment.
In a large population study of more than 10,000 randomly sampled Alberta adults, 34.9% problem drinkers who had never received treatment said they were interested in receiving self-help materials. Interest in self-help materials was highest among problem drinkers aged 45-55 years (48.8%). Although 18 – 24 year old problem drinkers were least likely to want self-help materials, more than a quarter (27.6%) expressed an interest.
Hazardous and Harmful Drinking