Physical health problems among patients seeking treatment for alcohol use disorders: A study in six European cities

The present study investigates physical health problems among patients with alcohol use disorders at alcohol treatment agencies in six European cities. The sample comprised 315 patients with a primary alcohol use disorder. Data were collected at admission to treatment using a structured research protocol, and ratings were made by a medically qualified physician subsequent to a physical examination of the patient. Physical health problems were extremely common: 79% of the sample had at least one problem, and 59% had two or more problems. Health problems were often serious, and 60% had at least one health problem that required treatment. The most common problems were gastrointestinal and liver disorders, but about a quarter of the sample had cardiovascular or neurological problems.

Frequency of drinking, duration of alcohol use disorder, and severity of alcohol dependence were associated with increased physical morbidity. Current smoking status and age were also associated with poorer physical health. Older drinkers had more physical health problems although they were less severely alcohol dependent than their younger counterparts. The high prevalence of physical health problems among problem drinkers provides opportunities of screening for alcohol use disorders not only in specialist alcohol treatment services but also in other health-care settings.

It is recommended that alcohol treatment agencies should provide a full routine health screen of patients at admission to treatment with provision or referral to appropriate treatment.

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Addiction Biology