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Inequitable access to substance abuse treatment services in Cape Town, South Africa

By Bronwyn J Myers, Johann Louw and Sonja Pasche


BACKGROUND:Despite high levels of substance use disorders in Cape Town, substance abuse treatment utilization is low among people from disadvantaged communities in Cape Town, South Africa. To improve substance abuse treatment utilization, it is important to identify any potential barriers to treatment initiation so that interventions to reduce these barriers can be implemented. To date, substance abuse research has not examined the factors associated with substance abuse treatment utilization within developing countries. Using the Behavioural Model of Health Services Utilization as an analytic framework, this study aimed to redress this gap by examining whether access to substance abuse treatment is equitable and the profile of variables associated with treatment utilization for people from poor communities in Cape Town, South Africa. METHODS: This study used a case-control design to compare 434 individuals with substance use disorders from disadvantaged communities who had accessed treatment with 555 controls who had not accessed treatment on a range of predisposing, treatment need and enabling/restricting variables thought to be associated with treatment utilization. A hierarchical logistic regression was conducted to assess the unique contribution that the need for treatment, predisposing and enabling/restricting variable blocks made on substance abuse treatment utilization. RESULTS: Findings revealed that non-need enabling/restricting variables accounted for almost equal proportions of the variance in service utilization as the need for treatment variables. These enabling/restricting variables also attenuated the influence of the treatment need and predisposing variables domains on chances of treatment utilization. Several enabling/restricting variables emerged as powerful partial predictors of utilization including competing financial priorities, geographic access barriers and awareness of treatment services. Perceived severity of drug use, a need for treatment variable) was also a partial predictor of utilization. CONCLUSIONS: Findings point to inequitable access to substance abuse treatment services among people from poor South African communities, with non-need factors being significant determinants of treatment utilization. In these communities, treatment utilization can be enhanced by (i) expanding the existing repertoire of services to include low threshold services that target individuals with less severe problems; (ii) providing food and transport vouchers as part of contingency management efforts, thereby reducing some of the financial and geographic access barriers; (iii) introducing community-based mobile outpatient treatment services that are geographically accessible; and (iv) employing community-based outreach workers that focus on improving awareness of where, when and how to access existing treatment services

Topics: Substance Abuse, Treatment services
Publisher: Department of Psychiatry & Mental Health
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1186/1747-597X-5-28
OAI identifier:

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