Open Access Research article

The potential impact of increased treatment rates for alcohol dependence in the United Kingdom in 2004

Kevin D Shield12*, Jürgen Rehm12345, Maximilien X Rehm6, Gerrit Gmel1 and Colin Drummond7

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), 33 Russell Street, Toronto, ON M5S 2S1, Canada

2 Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

3 Institute for Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, TU Dresden, Germany

4 Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH), University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

5 Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

6 Faculty of Arts and Sciences/Politics and Governance, Ryerson University, Toronto, Toronto, Canada

7 National Addiction Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, London, UK

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:53  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-53

Published: 5 February 2014

Abstract

Background

Alcohol consumption has been linked to a considerable burden of disease in the United Kingdom (UK), with most of this burden due to heavy drinking and Alcohol Dependence (AD). However, AD is undertreated in the UK, with only 8% of those individuals with AD being treated in England and only 6% of those individuals with AD being treated in Scotland. Thus, the objective of this paper is to quantify the deaths that would have been avoided in the UK in 2004 if the treatment rate for AD had been increased.

Methods

Data on the prevalence of AD, alcohol consumption, and mortality were obtained from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, the Global Information System on Alcohol and Health, and the 2004 Global Burden of Disease study respectively. Data on the effectiveness of pharmacological treatment and Motivational Interviewing/Cognitive Behavioural Therapy were obtained from Cochrane reviews and meta-analyses. Simulations were used to model the number of deaths under different treatment scenarios. Sensitivity analyses were performed to model the effects of Brief Interventions and to examine the effect of using AD prevalence data obtained from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

Results

In the UK, 320 female and 1,385 male deaths would have been avoided if treatment coverage of pharmacological treatment had been increased to 20%. This decrease in the number of deaths represents 7.9% of all alcohol-attributable deaths (7.0% of all alcohol-attributable deaths for women and 8.1% of all alcohol-attributable deaths for men). If we used lower AD prevalence rates obtained from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, then treatment coverage of pharmacological treatment in hospitals for 20% of the population with AD would have resulted in the avoidance of 529 deaths in 2004 (99 deaths avoided for women and 430 deaths avoided for men).

Conclusions

Increasing AD treatment in the UK would have led to a large number of deaths being avoided in 2004. Increased AD treatment rates not only impact mortality but also impact upon the large burden of disability and morbidity attributable to AD, as well as the associated social and economic burdens.

Keywords:
Alcohol; Mortality; Alcohol dependence; Alcohol dependence treatment; United Kingdom