Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 41, Issue 6, pp 480–487

Perceived need for alcohol, drug, and mental health treatment

  • Mark J. Edlund
  • Jürgen Unützer
  • Geoffrey M. Curran

DOI: 10.1007/s00127-006-0047-1

Cite this article as:
Edlund, M.J., Unützer, J. & Curran, G.M. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol (2006) 41: 480. doi:10.1007/s00127-006-0047-1



To investigate determinants of perceived need for alcohol, drug, and mental (ADM) health treatment and differences in ADM treatment patterns between individuals with perceived need and those without.


We used data from a nationally representative telephone survey of 9585 adults conducted in 1997–1998. Logistic regression was used to study the determinants of perceived need and the correlation between perceived need and any ADM treatment, specialty ADM treatment, appropriate care, and medication adherence.


Just fewer than 37% of individuals with an ADM disorder perceived a need for treatment, while 4.6% of those without an ADM disorder perceived a need for treatment. Women, the young and middle aged, the better educated, those with greater emotional support, and those with greater psychiatric morbidity were more likely to perceive need for ADM services. Perceived need was strongly correlated with receiving ADM treatment, although almost 44% of individuals in ADM treatment did not perceive a need for treatment. Among individuals in ADM treatment, those with perceived need were significantly more likely to receive specialty ADM treatment, but not more likely to be treatment adherent, or to receive appropriate care.


Substantial levels of unmet need are likely to persist as long as perceived levels of need remain low. Interventions targeting perceived need may hold promise for decreasing unmet need.


perceived needtreatment seekingunmet needmental healthsubstance abuse

Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag Darmstadt 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark J. Edlund
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jürgen Unützer
    • 4
  • Geoffrey M. Curran
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.VA South Central (VISN 16)Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical CenterNorth Little RockUSA
  2. 2.Dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of Arkansas for Medical SciencesLittle RockUSA
  3. 3.M. J. EdlundNorth Little RockUSA
  4. 4.Dept. of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  5. 5.HSR&D Center for Mental Healthcare and Outcomes ResearchCentral Arkansas Veterans Healthcare SystemNorth Little RockUSA