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Alcohol Alcohol. 2013 May-Jun;48(3):259-69. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agt004. Epub 2013 Jan 30.

The economic burden of alcohol dependence in Europe.

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Université Claude Bernard Lyon I, Villeurbanne, France.



To determine the economic burden pertaining to alcohol dependence in Europe.


Database searching was combined with grey literature searching to identify costs and resource use in Europe relating to alcohol dependence as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) or the World Health Organisation's International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10). Searches combined MeSH headings for both economic terms and terms pertaining to alcohol dependence. Relevant outcomes included direct healthcare costs and indirect societal costs. Main resource use outcomes included hospitalization and drug costs.


Compared with the number of studies of the burden of alcohol use disorders in general, relatively few focussed specifically on alcohol dependence. Twenty-two studies of variable quality were eligible for inclusion. The direct costs of alcohol dependence in Europe were substantial, the treatment costs for a single alcohol-dependent patient lying within the range €1591-€7702 per hospitalization and the annual total direct costs accounting for 0.04-0.31% of an individual country's gross domestic product (GDP). These costs were driven primarily by hospitalization; in contrast, the annual drug costs for alcohol dependence were low. The indirect costs were more substantial than the direct costs, accounting for up to 0.64% of GDP per country annually. Alcohol dependence may be more costly in terms of health costs per patient than alcohol abuse.


This review confirms that alcohol dependence represents a significant burden for European healthcare systems and society. Difficulties in comparing across cost-of-illness studies in this disease area, however, prevent specific estimation of the economic burden.

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