LTV’s De Facto looks at the future prevention of alcoholism in Latvia / Article

Research into the effects of Covid-19 on drinking habits shows that residents with existing alcohol problems started drinking more. There are plans to mitigate the effects of alcoholism nationwide, but despite the worrying trend, none of the measures include reaching out to those who are, for example, well-educated or better off and hoping to recover.

“There is no medicine for alcoholism,” an anonymous alcoholic who has been sober for 14 years told LTV. “Even though I had lived the life of a true homeless person, I thought an alcoholic was the one who lay in front of the train station, under the bench, soiled himself – that was the alcoholic.”

The man said he tried unsuccessfully to get rid of alcohol, but Alcoholics Anonymous meetings were the ones that really helped. “I saw people call themselves alcoholics – come in suits, white shirts. The image didn’t fit. But it gave me some hope – if they were done, these people knew what ‘They did.

The time of the pandemic has affected drinking habits and, as studies show, the most visible changes are in those who have previously experienced addiction issues.

Sanita Lazdiņa, an expert at the Ministry of Health’s Health Promotion and Addiction Prevention Division, said: “Latvia took part in a European study, where several European countries looked at how alcohol consumption had changed under the impact of Covid. For most European countries the consumption had not changed, but unfortunately for Latvia it was increasing among those at-risk consumers. The consumption of spirit drinks has been increasing rapidly in recent years.

Total alcohol consumption in this group increased by 56%, according to Lazdiņa. Among the countries studied, Latvia is the only country where the incidence of alcohol consumption has increased significantly.

Narcologist Māris Preinbergs said: “We are fully aware that Latvia spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on medicine to treat the health consequences of our patients, not to treat the causes. If these consequences were not to be treated , it would be much cheaper Hundreds of millions of money are made to treat hepatitis, cirrhosis [..].”

Currently, treatment is covered for the disadvantaged and unemployed. In two years of the unemployed program, it has been followed by 217 people and more than 128,000 euros have been spent. Only a third of these people found employment or training after treatment; two-thirds only stay for the winter, said narcologist Preinbergs.

“Some of the patients are happy that they can stay here for 30 days, eat three times a day and have their own kitchen here. There are cases where during those 30 days something clicks in their head and the person understands that they may live differently. We basically work for those people,” Preinbergs said.

One of the proposals to be introduced by the Department of Health’s new substance abuse reduction plan is to abolish patient co-payments and introduce an outpatient form of Minnesota program that would reach the most specific target group possible. . In cooperation with the Ministry of Welfare, there are plans to introduce a mentor or associate position which would help alcoholics not only to start treatment but also to stay sober. The basis of the Minnesota program are Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings which are already located in almost every major city in Latvia. The Minnesota program does not rely on the use of drugs, but on therapy that isolates the patient from their usual environment.

Currently, an Advertising and Marketing Restrictions Bill and Certain Trade Restrictions are under discussion between the ministries. The recommendation to raise the alcohol purchase age to 20 was not supported.

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