Slovakia says alcohol abuse constitutes its main drug problem

Slovak authorities says alcohol is the country's number one drug problem. What's more, alcohol abuse among young people is on the increase. Michal Groch reports from Radio Slovakia International.

The survey was presented at a press conference that was part of the European week in the fight against drugs. Despite the fact that the conference should have been about drug abuse in general, it was mainly focused on alcohol. Head of the media and marketing department of the Slovak Medical University opened up the conference with an explanation why the major attention was dedicated to the problem of alcohol abuse in Slovakia.

“We don’t want to push the rest of the drug scene aside. But it is a matter of fact that alcohol is our number one drug problem which we have to solve and which takes an immense amount of money. Alcohol is also connected to a large number of serious crimes like murders or rapes, but it is also the trigger for the disintegration of many families."

The main goals of the survey were then presented by Robert Ochaba – head of the tobacco and alcohol control center from the Public Health Authority of the Slovak Republic.

“Our goals were to find out more about experiences of young people with alcohol, their attitudes towards alcohol and their level of knowledge about the possibility of alcoholism. Our goal was also to investigate relationships between the consumption of alcohol by the family members, and their consumption of alcohol and also to investigate the impact of their surroundings and friends.”

I managed to have a word with Mr Ochaba a few days after the press conference. He was eager to answer questions that hadn’t been answered at the press conference. Is there any trend in consumption of alcohol in Slovakia?

“The trend here is clear. The consumption of alcohol among young people has increased. We can also observe that the first experience with alcohol happens earlier than before and it has moved before the age of 15. This is very alarming information."

What has to be done in order to improve this situation?

“There is a great challenge in terms of prevention that lies ahead of us. Legislation offers a vast space for improvement. For example we need a new amendment to the law on protection from alcoholism so that we can better protect the young from the effects of alcohol. Another major improvement can be achieved by raising taxes on alcohol beverages that would decrease the availability of alcohol for young people.”

If you compare the current situation in Slovakia with other European countries…?

“More than 60% of the adult population in Slovakia has been using alcohol in the last 30 days according to data from Eurostat, which is basically average. Denmark has been on the top with the highest consumption of alcohol in the last 30 days, while Hungary was at the bottom.”

Alcohol is the world’s second biggest killer after tobacco products.