Czech alcohol consumption figures highlight rising number of problem drinkers

The Czech Republic has just received the sort of global recognition it could do without – placed second in a world ranking of alcohol consumption in a World Health Organisation study. And local alcoholism experts say problem drinking is on the increase as Czechs seek an easy solution to increased stress and other problems.

The Czech Republic was in effect given the silver medal for worldwide alcohol consumption by a recent study by the United Nation’s healthcare unit, the World Health Organisation (WHO). With an average annual per capita consumption equivalent of just under 16.5 litres of pure alcohol consumed by every person over 15, the country was only topped by the former Soviet Republic of Moldova. There the consumption figure came in at 18.2 litres. The European average is 12.2 litres.

With a bit more breakdown, the figures become even more eye watering, with equivalent pure alcohol consumption for Czech male drinkers climbing to an average 26.59 litres of pure alcohol.

The WHO ranking is based on statistics ending in 2005, but there is little to suggest the picture has changed in the last years. Beer drinking in the Czech Republic peaked at 163.5 litres per person in 2005, falling slightly to just over 150 litres in 2009. During that time, Czech drinking habits broadened with wine filling more and more glasses.

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One of the reports’ main findings is that governments are failing to get to grips with the problems of excess consumption and alcohol dependence or giving enough priority to treatment once the problem has become established. It suggests stronger moves to curb drinking hours and the overall availability of alcohol, stricter age limits and tougher controls on advertising. Most of those suggestions look like they are swimming against the alcoholic tide in the Czech Republic.

Monika Plocová is a former alcoholic who then went on to treat problem drinkers at one of the biggest hospitals for problem drinkers in Prague, before setting up an external help network and finally a private treatment centre.

She says the problem of alcoholism is clearly on the rise in the Czech Republic.

“Regarding alcoholism in the Czech Republic, the number of people dependent on alcohol is increasing. We think the figure is around 700,000. We expect that figure to rise because the pressure on people is increasing and they turn to alcohol more and more as a not very expert solution and form of self treatment.”

Combined with that she says the facilities for treating alcohol dependent Czechs is woefully inadequate faced with the scale of the problem.

“I would say that there are not enough treatment centres given the fact that that the problem is increasing. I think there should be more centres. We have started to set up a new centre but, unfortunately, with private funds because we just cannot get them from the resources for social care set aside for this problem by the Ministry of Health.”