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Interventions for Excessive Alcohol Use: Costs and Outcomes of Pharmacotherapies and Other Treatments

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Author: Marian Shanahan, Chris Doran, Amy Gibson, Jennifer Stafford, Richard Mattick

Resource Type: Monographs

NDARC Monograph No. 56 (2005)


Tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption are the two main causes of premature and preventable death and disease in Australia. It has been estimated that in 1998, 185,557 hospital separations were attributable to tobacco and alcohol related illness; 21,084 Australians died as a consequence of tobacco and alcohol related causes; and a total of 205,726 years of life were lost as a result of this premature mortality (Ridolfo and Stevenson 2001). Recent cost estimates suggest that the total costs to society of tobacco and alcohol use are approximately $28,623 million of which around 47% are potentially avoidable (Collins and Lapsley 2002). The Australian Government supports the use of pharmacotherapies to alleviate the burden of harm associated with tobacco smoking and alcohol misuse.

This report documents work conducted over the past two and half years examining the uptake of the pharmacotherapies acamprosate and naltrexone among alcohol dependent population, and the perceptions of the effectiveness and prescribing patterns of these medications by practitioners. While the work examining the uptake and prescribing patterns of the pharmacotherapies was underway, it was realised that the public health impact on excessive use of alcohol was minimal given the low uptake of the pharmacotherapies and the small group for whom these pharmacotherapies were appropriate. Therefore it was decided to broaden the report to include 1) a background on consumption and harms of alcohol in Australia, 2) a general chapter on the economic literature on interventions to decrease the burdens, and 3) an examination of the costs and outcomes of specific treatment for excessive use of alcohol in Australia. This report was prepared alongside a report on smoking cessation.

Each chapter of the report deals with a separate topic, and as such there are key findings for the various chapters. The final chapter of the report brings together the various findings and discusses them in a policy context.