BACKGROUND: One hundred twenty women alcoholics recruited to a treatment program called EWA (Early Treatment for Women With Alcohol Addiction) were studied. The selected women were not previously treated for alcohol abuse. METHODS: The women were followed up by use of a structured personal interview, biomarkers sensitive for alcohol abuse (i.e., glutamyl transpeptidase), and questionnaires, by using defined criteria for abstinence, social drinking, satisfactory drinking outcome, and unsatisfactory drinking outcome. RESULTS: Drinking outcome was good (i.e., total abstinence, social drinking, or satisfactory drinking outcome) for 67% of the women during the total follow-up time, by use of strict criteria for relapse. The results were corroborated by the biomarkers. Similar results were reported from two previously studied groups of women from the same department. However, the frequency of abstinence was higher and social drinking was significantly lower among this sample of women. Daily drinking, the use of sedatives, and a long duration of pretreatment alcohol abuse predicted an unfavorable outcome. However, a long duration of outpatient treatment predicted a good outcome, whereas treatment dropout was related to an unsatisfactory drinking outcome. A majority of the women (96%) rated the treatment experience and the treatment program favorably. The overall good results might reflect the selection of the subjects studied. CONCLUSIONS: Improving treatment program adherence would probably improve outcome for the women with an unsatisfactory drinking outcome.
Women with alcohol problems constitute an increasing number of patients in medical service. Do they need special care? How should the treatment program be designed? The specialized female Karolinska Project for Early Treatment of Women with Alcohol Addiction (EWA) unit at the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, was opened in 1981. The aim of the project is to reach women in an early stage of alcohol dependence behavior and to develop treatment programs specific to the needs of females alone. In order to investigate the value of such a specialized female unit a controlled 2-year follow-up study was carried out including 200 women. The probands were treated in the female only EWA-unit, whereas the controls were placed in the care of traditional mixed-sex alcoholism treatment centers. The 2-year follow-up study showed a more successful rehabilitation regarding alcohol consumption and social adjustment for the women treated in the specialized female unit (EWA). Improvement was noted also for the controls but to a lesser extent. Probably one of the most important achievements of a specialized female unit, such as EWA, is to attract women to come for help earlier.