Austrians drink less. Nevertheless, alcohol consumption is a health risk for every seventh person, as reported in the current “Handbuchohol – Österreich”.
Over the past 50 years, the alcohol-specific behavior of Austrians and their attitudes towards alcohol have slowly but consistently changed for the better. This is the conclusion reached by the authors of the “Alcohol Handbook – Austria”, the 20th edition of which was presented in Vienna on Friday. Nevertheless: alcohol consumption is dangerous for every seventh person.
Twice as many men as women have problematic alcohol consumption, explained Julian Strizek (Competence Center Addiction / Health Austria GmbH). Basically, however, alcohol consumption in the population has declined significantly, reports “Handbuch” initiator and author Alfred Uhl: from 15 liters a year to 12 liters of pure alcohol per capita since the 1970s, by an average of 25 percent. This would be proven by several indicators: Regular heavy alcohol consumption in the world of work has become an exception, traffic accidents in connection with alcohol have decreased drastically since the 1960s. This indicates that preventive measures and legal changes have had a successful impact. “The awareness that alcohol is a problem has increased in Austria,” said Uhl.
Treatment: Reduced consumption instead of abstinence
A lot has happened in the treatment of people with alcohol. While highly moralizing concepts dominated 50 years ago, which were committed to radical abstinence orientation, people are now moving away from them. In this way, the largest possible number of alcoholic patients can be motivated for treatment as early as possible. Therapy is now much more patient-oriented, the goal of abstinence was the concept of consumption reduction and “damage limitation” for people who cannot get their problematic alcohol consumption under control. Ideally, a final recovery would be achieved, but a significant improvement in health, work ability and quality of life was already a legitimate treatment goal, it said.
As with other chronic diseases, interventions by the health system are always necessary after alcohol treatment. In this context, integrated treatment systems are becoming increasingly important. Central contact points deal with the patients, draw up a treatment plan for them and assign them to suitable treatment facilities. At the same time, the realization prevailed that alcohol addiction is often to be understood as the result of a failed “self-medication attempt” (“self medication”) with basic psychiatric or psychosocial problems, explained Uhl.
Decline in children and adolescents
The consumption of alcohol is steadily declining, especially among children and adolescents, the “manual” authors were pleased, and generally in Western society. The reasons for this are still controversial, said Strizek. “There is no monocausal explanation for this either, there are fundamental social changes, especially among boys.” There is currently no evidence of substitution by other addictive substances.
Uhl said that it is still pending in Germany to standardize the protection of minors. It is still a national issue and, despite some improvements, still shows clear differences. There have always been efforts to standardize these provisions, but they have so far always failed, Uhl criticized: “I hope that a lot will still happen there.”
No uniform alcohol policy in Europe
In addition, the current handbook dealt with the subject of alcohol policy discourse in Europe in the area of conflict between restrictive control approaches – starting from the European north and the English-speaking world, both historically Protestant – and the access of the Alpine region and southern Europe. In the latter areas of Catholic origin, moderate alcohol consumption is rated neutral to positive and associated with enjoyment and quality of life. Since the integration of Europe has made it increasingly difficult to implement an independent alcohol policy, efforts on both sides to convince all of Europe of the advantages of traditional own access have increased.
In Austria, too, there is still enough work to be done in the direction of a differentiated view, said Uhl. “Drinking pressure needs to be reduced.” “Mental illnesses need to be addressed more,” added Strizek. Integrated care must be expanded, “people should not be left to their own devices”.
The “Alcohol Handbook – Austria” is a central free source of information on the various aspects of the topic. It is updated regularly, is easily accessible on the Internet and offers both simple overview information and detailed comparisons and analyzes in relation to most alcohol-related issues. Several volumes deal, among other things, with statistics and methods, legal foundations and selected special topics.