Lithuania: Attempts To Tackle Pervasive Alcohol Harm
Prevention, treatment, policy – Lithuania is trying its best to address the alcohol epidemic in the country. The World Health Organization ranks Lithuanians as the world’s heaviest alcohol user. WHO estimates published in May 2017 showed that average annual consumption was at 18.2 liters of pure alcohol per capita in 2016, putting the small Baltic state ahead of Belarus, Moldova and Russia.
Poor mental health and coping skills are factors in the alcohol addiction epidemic in the country, especially among Lithuanian men. WHO statistics from 2014 show that 16.7 percent of them abused alcohol or were dependent on it.
Policy plus treatment and prevention
The parliament of the EU member state raised the tax on alcohol in March 2017 and voted by a large margin in June this year to raise the legal alcohol consumption age to 20 from 18. It also decided to introduce a ban on alcohol advertizing from 2018.
In addition to these best buy policy measures, other efforts are necessary, too, for real change. For example, medical treatment of Lithuanians with alcohol use disorders is still spotty across the country, where the necessary medication is not paid for by the state, according to the national health insurance fund. In Lithuania, there are only five state-run alcohol rehab centers.
For Aurelijus Veryga, the health minister, it is critical
to ensure equal access to everyone concerned in the various regions”.