New agency set up to tackle alcoholism in Lithuania

DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

The foundation will work more intensively with people dependent on alcohol, treat them and supply them with needed medicines. The initial objective in the first few years is to significantly reduce alcohol sales outlets, ban advertising and pay more attention to children‘s education on alcohol. The government is targeting a qualitative rather than quantitative approach towards the problem.

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“If you are talking about children in foster homes, which are there because of their alcohol-using parents, if you are talking about criminal acts committed under the influence of alcohol, if you’re talking about death, about poisonings, the statistics are showing that the situation is not improving. Maybe it‘s happening gradually,” said Inga Juozapavičienė, the head of the Drug, Tobacco and Alcohol Control Department.

On the other hand, Health Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė said that “All the indicators have begun to decline. There is a tendency that in municipalities where a greater effort is put, such as restricting alcohol consumption on state holidays, public events, a lower level of alcohol consumption has been identified than in those municipalities where the were no such restrictions.”

The state is reforming the state public health centers and incorporating them into the National Public Health Promotion Foundation. It will be funded by money received from the sales of alcoholic beverages which in 2016 are estimated to hit €1.3 million. Preventive and social programs for children and youth education will be funded from these revenues.

Šalaševičiūtė said there was a need to fund treatments for people who could not afford them: “These services must be covered from the Compulsory Health Insurance Fund like the compensatory medicines. This issue has not started to be dealt with, but there are drugs that are innovative and very expensive – with monthly doses costing €300. The effectiveness of such drugs has been proven. There are some medicines with monthly doses that cost €10, but for a certain category of alcohol-dependent persons it is still too expensive.”

Until now it was thought that there were around 50,000 alcohol-dependent people in Lithuania, but now estimates put that figure at at least three times larger.

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