Background: Alcohol dependence (AD) in Europe is prevalent and causes considerable health burden. Recognition by general practitioners (GPs) and provision of or referral to treatment may contribute to reduce this burden. This paper studied AD prevalence in varying European primary care settings and examined who received treatment.
Methods: In a cross-sectional multi-centre study in six European countries, 358 general practitioners assessed 13,003 primary care patients between January 2013 and January 2014, of which 8,476 patients were interviewed, collecting information on socio-demographics, physical and mental problems, and on alcohol use, problems and treatment. AD diagnoses were determined by GPs' clinical judgement and a standardized interview. A wide definition for AD treatment included individual and group interventions provided by different health professionals. Descriptive as well as inferential statistics were employed.
Results: AD was prevalent among patients in European primary health care settings (8.7 %, 95 % confidence interval (CI): 8.1-9.3 %). Treatment rates were low (22.3 % of all AD cases, 95 % CI: 19.4-25.2 %). For both prevalence and treatment utilization, considerable country variations were observed. AD was associated with a number of socio-economic disadvantages (e.g. higher unemployment rate) and higher physical (e.g., liver disease, hypertension) and mental comorbidities (e.g., depression, anxiety). Liver problems, mental distress and daily amount of alcohol used were higher among treated versus untreated male patients with AD.
Conclusion: A minority of people identified as having AD received treatment, showing heavier drinking patterns and a higher level of co-morbidity. Different types of treatment, depending on severity of AD, should be considered.