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Sunday, June 16, 2013

The burden and cost of disorders of the brain in Europe with the inclusion of harmful alcohol use and nicotine addiction


Recent publications calculated an annual prevalence of 38% of the population within the European Union having a “disorder of the brain” including substance use disorders (SUD) (Wittchen et al., 2011). The overall economic burden was estimated at 789 billion € (Gustavsson et al., 2011). While these calculations included alcohol dependence, harmful use of alcohol, a common ICD-10 diagnosis, was not considered appropriately. Tobacco related figures were completely left out.

We hence estimated burden and costs of these diagnoses for the European Union by extrapolating basic figures from Germany, which have average proportions of alcohol and tobacco related consumption and prevalence rates. Several German Data sets were used to estimate prevalence, disability adjusted life years (DALYs) and Cost-of-Illness for alcohol and tobacco use disorders in Germany. Results were obtained by focussing on the burden of SUD including well-known comorbidities. Results were then extrapolated to the European level.

Compared with the earlier estimations DALYs increased from 2.8 million to over 6.6 million for SUDs. Costs augmented from 65.68 billion € PPP to about 350 billion € PPP.

We discuss the robustness and validity of our findings under different assumptions and with regard to methodology. We further took into account that in the new DSM 5 alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence – and similar tobacco – will be collapsed into one category of “alcohol related disorder”.

If added to the burden and cost calculations the substance use disorders rank on top of all disorders of the brain in Europe. Regardless of the calculation procedure our figures represent lower estimates and have to be regarded as conservative approaches.

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