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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Barriers to alcohol and other drug treatment use among Black African and Coloured South Africans

Bronwyn Myers

Author Affiliations

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, PO Box 19070, Tygerberg, 7505, South Africa

Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:177  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-177

Published: 17 May 2013



There are racial disparities in the use of alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment services in South Africa but little is known about the factors contributing to these disparities. This study aimed to redress this gap through identifying differences in barriers to AOD treatment use among Black African and Coloured persons from Cape Town, South Africa. The Behavioral Model of Health Services Utilization was used as an analytic framework.


A case-control design was used to compare 434 individuals with AOD problems who had accessed treatment with 555 controls who had not accessed treatment on a range of variables. Logistic regression procedures were employed to examine the unique profile of variables associated with treatment utilization for Black African and Coloured participants.


After controlling for the influence of treatment need and predisposing factors on treatment use, several barriers to treatment were identified. Greater awareness of treatment options and fewer geographic access and affordability barriers were strongly associated with an increased likelihood of AOD treatment use for both race groups. However, Black African persons were more vulnerable to the effects of awareness and geographic access barriers on treatment use. Stigma consciousness was only associated with AOD treatment utilization for Coloured participants.


Differences in barriers to AOD treatment use were found among Black African and Coloured South Africans. Targeted interventions that address the unique profile of barriers experienced by each race group are needed to improve AOD treatment use by these underserved groups. Several strategies for improving the likelihood of treatment entry are suggested.

Alcohol and other drug treatment; Racial disparities; Barriers to treatment; South Africa