Scientists from the Center for Psychiatric Research in Sweden decided to check how many of the country’s residents suffering from alcoholism and related illnesses receive therapy, medications and visit narcologists. The results were disappointing, writes the journal “Drug and Alcohol Addiction”.
A minority of Swedes with alcohol use disorders are prescribed drugs for addiction, a situation that has remained largely unchanged in the country since mid-2000.
“This is a huge challenge, given the suffering that this disorder causes, both for the individual and for society as a whole,” said correspondent Sarah Wallhead Finn, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute’s Department of Global Public Health and a psychologist at a specialist service in Stockholm center for addiction disorders.
The researchers say there are several plausible explanations for this situation: low awareness of these drugs among doctors and patients, patients prefer psychological treatment to drugs, and in some cases there may be physical obstacles, such as liver disease, due to which some types of drugs are not suitable …
In the current study, the researchers wanted to examine prescriptions for four approved alcoholic drugs (disulfiram, naltrexone, acamprosate, and nalmefene) in people being treated for an alcohol disorder. The study included more than 130,000 adults who were diagnosed with alcohol use disorder between 2007 and 2015.
The study found that the proportion of people who received prescriptions for alcohol medications during this time ranged from 22.8% to 23.9%, and the overall rate did not change over the nine-year study period. The researchers also found individual differences. For example, alcohol drugs were less prescribed for men, the elderly, people with lower levels of education and income, people living in medium-sized cities or rural areas, and people with underlying medical conditions.
The researchers emphasize that the study included only people treated for alcohol disorder through specialized care, and that the number of people with alcohol problems in the general population is much higher. Overall, about 4% of Swedish adults meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder, but not all receive any form of treatment. According to the researchers, this means that only about 2–2.5% of all alcohol dependent people in Sweden receive alcohol medication.