Research & Resources

Medications for Alcohol Use Disorder and Retention in Care in Medicaid-Enrolled Youth, 2014-2019

In this study, researchers measured receipt of medication and behavioral health services for alcohol use disorder (AUD) in youth and subsequent retention in care (i.e., no period greater than 60 days without claims). This retrospective cohort study used claims data from more than 4.7 million publicly insured youth ages 13–22 in 15 states from 2014–2019. Timely treatment was defined as receipt of medication (naltrexone, acamprosate, or disulfiram) and/or behavioral health services within 30 days of incident AUD diagnosis. Among 14,194 youth with AUD, 10,851 (76.4 percent) received timely treatment. Only 2.1 percent of youth received medication (alone or in combination); nearly all (97.9 percent) received behavioral health services only. Older (ages 16–17) and younger adolescents (ages 13–15) were 0.13 times more likely to receive medication than young adults ages 21 and older. Median retention in care for youth receiving medication (alone or in combination) was 119 days, compared with 108 days for youth receiving behavioral health services alone. Young adults ages 18 and older were 1.12 times as likely to discontinue treatment compared with adolescents younger than 18. Overall, 7 in 10 youth received AUD treatment, but only 2 in 100 received medication. The researchers advised that future studies further characterize the effectiveness of medications and determine whether low rates of medication receipt represent underuse.

This paper, “Medications for alcohol use disorder and retention in care in Medicaid-enrolled youth, 2014-2019,” was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and published in the Journal of adolescent health.

Link to full item