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Marital Status and Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions

  • In 2005, over half (52 percent) of substance abuse treatment admissions aged 25 to 44 had never married, 28 percent were formerly married, and 20 percent were currently married. By contrast, in the Nation as a whole, data from the 2000 Census for this age range show 25 percent had never married, 14 percent were formerly married, and 61 percent were currently married
  • Admissions who had never married were more likely than those who were formerly or currently married to report daily use of the primary substance (44 percent vs. 39 and 36 percent)
  • Substance abuse treatment admissions who had never married were more likely to have extensive treatment histories and less likely to be entering treatment for the first time than other admissions aged 25 to 44 in 2005

Marital status as a predictor for substance abuse

In particular, married persons may have fewer substance abuse problems than unmarried persons, show better courses of treatment when they do require it, and relapse less often to substance abuse after treatment.1,2,3 For example, data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) show that persons who were married at the time of the survey had a lower rate of substance dependence or abuse than persons who were not married.4 Other studies have shown that for those who abuse substances, being married can be a predictor of starting substance abuse treatment, spending more hours in treatment, and staying in treatment.5 In contrast, being unmarried can be a predictor of higher relapse into substance abuse after treatment.6

Relationships between marital status and substance abuse treatment admissions can be monitored with the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), an annual compilation of data on the demographic characteristics and substance abuse problems of those admitted to substance abuse treatment, primarily at facilities that receive some public funding.7 TEDS records represent admissions rather than individuals, as a person may be admitted to treatment more than once during a single year.

TEDS includes a Minimum Data Set collected by all States and Supplemental Data Set items collected by some States. "Marital Status," a Supplemental Data Set item, was reported for at least 75 percent of all substance abuse treatment admissions in 41 States and jurisdictions in 2005.8 These 41 States and jurisdictions accounted for 67 percent of all substance abuse treatment admissions in 2005. However, since marital status is associated with age, the analysis in this report is restricted to admissions between 25 and 44 years of age. In these 41 States and jurisdictions, there were approximately 631,700 admissions aged 25 to 44 whose marital status was known (34 percent of all admissions to TEDS).

For purposes of this report, marital status was divided into three categories: never married, formerly married (i.e., divorced, separated, and widowed), and currently married.

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