Increased treatment rates of alcohol dependence can save almost 12,000 lives
Thousands of Europeans die from alcohol dependence every year because they are not treated for their disease. Less than 10 per cent of patients with alcohol dependence in the EU currently receive treatment, and every year the disease is responsible for the deaths of about 120,000 Europeans between 15 and 64 years. If treatment rates were extended to 40 per cent of patients, it is estimated that the lives of 11,700 patients could be saved each year.
The benefits of increased treatment rates of alcohol dependence in the EU are described in a new study, which is published in the February issue of the medical journal European Neuropsychopharmacology1. The study documents for the first time the deadly consequences of alcohol dependence and the limited treatment of the disease in the EU. A research team led by Professor Jürgen Rehm from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, University of Toronto, conducted the newly published study.
The new study also quantifies for the first time to what extent the increase in overall mortality caused by alcohol consumption is directly attributable to the disease of alcohol dependence. Alcohol dependence was found to be responsible for 70 per cent of all deaths caused by alcohol.
The social costs of alcohol consumption are wide-ranging and can include crime, traffic accidents, unemployment and family issues such as child neglect and divorce. The cost to society has been estimated at 155.8bn euros in 2010, and 62 per cent of these costs are thought to result from heavy drinking associated with alcohol dependence2.
The study makes it clear that increased treatment of alcohol dependence is essential in order to reduce alcohol’s overall contribution to disease and mortality. Not as a replacement for existing alcohol policies in the EU, but in addition to the proven alcohol policy measures such as increasing price, banning advertising, or restricting availability of alcohol.
Based on the survey results, Professor Rehm urges increased focus on treatment of alcohol dependence alongside prevention to ensure an integrated approach to alcohol dependence is developed and implemented.
“Given the substantial health burden in Europe attributable to alcohol consumption and, in particular, to alcohol dependence, current alcohol policy prevention measures should be supplemented with measures to expand treatment coverage” says Professor Rehm.
Lundbeck has supported the study by an unrestricted educational grant.
About alcohol dependence
Alcohol dependence is a brain disease with a high probability of following a progressive course.3,4 Alcohol is toxic to most organs of the body, and the level of consumption is strongly correlated with the risk for long-term morbidity and mortality.5 Alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 types of disease and injury.6 Genetic and environmental factors are important in the development of alcohol dependence; genetic factors account for an estimated 60% of the risk of developing the disease.7 A central characteristic of alcohol dependence is the often overpowering desire to consume alcohol. Patients experience difficulties in controlling the consumption of alcohol and continue consuming alcohol despite harmful consequences.8
Excessive alcohol consumption is common in many parts of the world, especially in Europe where more than 14 million people are alcohol dependent.9 and where the treatment gap is very large, with only 8% of patients receiving any treatment.10 Both abstinence and reduction goals should be considered as part of a comprehensive treatment approach for patients with alcohol dependence.11
Further information, including contact to Professor Rehm and the full study
Simon Augustesen, Media Relations
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 Rehm, J et al. Modelling the impact of alcohol dependence on mortality burden and the effect of available treatment interventions in the European Union. European Neuropsychopharmacology [epub ahead of print August 21, 2012]
2Rehm et al. CAMH. Alcohol consumption, alcohol dependence and attributable burden of disease in
3Burge et al. Am Fam Physician 1999; 59(2): 361-370
4Leshner. Science 1997; 278: 45-47
5Rehm et al. Eur Addict Res 2003; 9: 147-156
6WHO. Global status report on alcohol and health, 2011
7Schuckit. Ch. 98. In: Davis et al (eds). Neuropsychopharmacology: The Fifth Generation of Progress. 2002
8WHO, ICD-10, F10-19
9Wittchen et al. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 2011;21(9): 655-679
10Kohn et al. Bull World Health Organ 2004; 82(11):858-866
11Ambrogne. J Subst Abuse Treat 2002; 22(1): 45-53