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Alcohol dependence in Portugal increases 50% in decade

More treatment needed, say experts

Alcohol dependence in Portugal has increased by almost 50% in the last decade, yet demand for treatment for alcohol-related disorders remains stable, an official at the Portuguese Society of Alcohology (SPA) has revealed – arguing, that greater intervention is needed.

Speaking to Lusa ahead of the congress ‘Alcoology in a time of change’, psychiatrist Joana Teixeira cited data from a survey carried out by SICAD (the Service for Intervention in Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies), showing the prevalence of alcohol dependence increased to 4.2% in 2022 (from 3% in 2012).

Despite this almost 50% increase, the demand for services remained “relatively stable” – which indicates the alcohol dependence “is not being properly accompanied by the signalling (of cases) and appropriate referral” for treatment. 

Teixeira believes there needs to be both a strengthening of treatment structures, “which have not been properly resourced in recent years,” and “a greater capacity for intervention when the disease is effectively established.

“We have to detect these patients and treat them,” in order to avoid an increase in alcohol-attributable diseases, such as cirrhosis of the liver and even cancers, she stressed.

Coordinator of the  Lisbon Psychiatric Hospital Centre (CHPL) Alcohology and New Addictions Unit, Joana Teixeira noted that there has been some improvement in the detection of cases and referrals by certain health centres, but the overall picture is still “less than desirable”.

She therefore emphasised the need to provide the country and the health sector with resources, writes Lusa, “not only for prevention campaigns, but also for treatment campaigns.”

Although the majority of patients with alcohol dependence are still men (80%), there has been an increase in alcohol consumption among women and young people, she added.

“In young people, not only has consumption increased in quantity, but it has also increased at a younger age,” she said, warning that “any alcohol consumption at this stage is very harmful to health” because their nervous system is not yet fully formed.

The psychiatrist also expressed concern about the number of drivers with excessive alcohol consumption involved in road accidents, advocating more prevention campaigns, and increased enforcement: “This is the only way to really see some repercussions in practice”, she considered.

On the subject of the congress – which takes place at CHPL tomorrow and Friday – Teixeira explained that SPA sees itself to be in a time of “change” with the creation of the Institute for Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies (ICAD) as the planned replacement for SICAD.

“2023 has been marked by the reorganisation of the structure of services, of addictive behaviours and dependencies, and the Society thinks that this is really an opportunity to improve intervention in the area of alcohol-related problems”..

The creation of ICAD demonstrates that “there is a real desire to improve the approach to the problem of addictive behaviours and dependencies in Portugal,” she added, explaining that over the last 20 years, alcohol consumption in Portugal (by as much as 75% of the population) has remained ‘unchanged’, meaning ‘more needs to be done’.

Source material: LUSA