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  • Lauri Beekmann

Latvia: Plan to reduce alcohol and drug abuse: better targeted prevention and quality care services

28.10.2022 - A plan for reducing the use of alcoholic beverages and narcotic substances for the next 3 years was considered and approved, which envisages the creation of more targeted prevention and higher quality healthcare and social support services that are widely available to people. The plan was reviewed and adopted by the Latvian Government on Tuesday, October 25.

The plan includes targeted preventive measures, planned improvements in the quality and availability of both outpatient and inpatient healthcare services, as well as improvements in social support services:

  • # implementation of a life skills development program in schools, which aims to develop skills such as stress and emotion management, critical thinking, decision-making, problem solving, effective communication and refusal skills through various physical activities, in order to prevent teenagers from using psychoactive substances and help them make healthy choices in life;

  • # creating informational materials, including in digital form, and organizing digital events about the harmful effects of addictive substances;

  • # training for educators and parents of educational institutions on addiction prevention issues;

  • # promotion of a multiprofessional drug treatment approach;

  • # exempting patients from co-payments for addiction treatment;

  • # development and implementation of a state-funded outpatient psychotherapy program for persons with alcohol or drug abuse disorders;

  • # introduction of a support person (social mentor/family assistant) service in social services for children and young people with addiction problems;

  • # development of support measures for co-dependent persons, providing state-paid psychological and therapeutic consultations;

  • # improvement measures for specialists working in the field of addictions.

The implementation of the measures included in the plan in the next three years requires a total of 11.1 million euros of additional funding, of which 1.5 million euros would be needed next year.

Specialists draw attention to the fact that the use of addictive substances is one of the main risk factors in the world, which negatively affects the health of the population and also threatens the health and safety of the people around them. The use of addictive substances is the cause of diseases such as mental disorders, learning difficulties (the dangers of addictive substance use in adolescence are particularly great), gastrointestinal diseases, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, liver diseases, direct or indirect substance abuse trauma caused by use, etc. Also, the use of addictive substances increases the incidence and severity of violence. In road traffic accidents with serious injuries or fatal consequences, one of the reasons for the accident is usually the driver being under the influence of alcohol. The use of addictive substances increases risky sexual behavior, as a result of which a person can become infected with sexually transmitted diseases. Various infectious diseases can be acquired by injecting drugs.

Statistics show that the addiction problem in Latvia is increasing and exceeds the average indicators of European and OECD countries. According to the data collected by the World Health Organization in 2018, the registered alcohol consumption per inhabitant in Latvia in 2018 was 11.1 liters of absolute alcohol, while the European average was 9.8 liters. According to the calculations made by SPKC, the registered consumption of absolute alcohol per inhabitant aged 15 years and older, including the consumption of alcoholic beverages by tourists, was 12.6 liters in 2020. On the other hand, the total consumption, excluding the consumption of alcoholic beverages by tourists, was 12.1 liters. According to the study "Prevalence of the use of addictive substances among the population in 2020", 15% of the population of Latvia have tried marijuana during their lifetime, which is a much higher figure than in 2015 - 9.8%. On the other hand, among 15-16-year-old students, 26% have tried marijuana (ESPAD, 2020), which is 8% more than in 2015. 8.4% of Latvian schoolchildren have tried any other drugs (except marijuana).

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