Positive health-care effects of an alcohol ignition interlock programme among driving while impaired (DWI) offenders

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AimsTo compare the costs of hospital care and sick leave/disability pensions between two groups of driving while impaired (DWI) offenders: participants in an alcohol ignition interlock programme (AIIP) and controls with revoked licences, but with no comparable opportunity to participate in an AIIP.SettingAs an alternative to licence revocation DWI offenders can participate in a voluntary 2-year AIIP permitting the offender to drive under strict regulations entailing regular medical check-ups. The participants are forced to alter their alcohol habits and those who cannot demonstrate sobriety are dismissed from the programme. Participants are liable for all costs themselves.DesignQuasi-experimental, with a non-equivalent control group used for comparison; intent-to-treat design. Based on the number of occasions/days in hospital and on sick leave/disability pension, the health-care costs for public insurance have been calculated.FindingAverage total health-care costs were 25% lower among AIIP participants (1156 individuals) than among controls (815 individuals) during the 2-year treatment period. This corresponds to over €1000 (SEK9610) less annual costs per average participant. For those who complete the 2-year programme the cost reduction was more pronounced; 37% during the treatment and 20% during the post-treatment period.ConclusionsThe positive health-care effects were due apparently to reduced alcohol consumption. The social benefit of being allowed to drive while in the AIIP may also have contributed. The reduction in health-care costs was significant only during the 2-year treatment period, but among those who completed the entire AIIP sustained effects were also observed in the post-treatment period. The effects were comparable to those of regular alcoholism treatment programmes.

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