“Help and care reaches only one in five abusers,” wrote Gerhard Larsson, who is leading a government inquiry into the issue, in an opinion article in Dagens Nyheter on Thursday.
Alcohol is identified as the “big problem” with fresh figures indicating that 330,000 people in Sweden suffer from alcohol dependency.
“There is a tendency to treat, for example alcohol dependency, as an individual and social problem – not as a sickness which requires treatment,” Larsson wrote, arguing that more resources need to be applied to provide professional help.
Furthermore the report shows that 65,000 people abuse prescription drugs while 80,000 are “risk consumers” of illegal drugs, with a further 29,500 suffering from serious abuse.
Larsson writes that the hidden statistics behind drug and alcohol abuse are considerable with only 100,000 of the total 500,000 abusers known to the healthcare services.
The report confirms however that Swedish alcohol consumption, measured in litres of alcohol per annum, is comparatively low in European terms although has increased steadily over the past 15 years.
While Larsson lent support to Sweden’s preventative alcohol policies such as high taxes and attempts to limit supply by retaining an alcohol retail monopoly, he argued that treatment of those suffering drug and alcohol abuse needs to be given a higher priority.
“We can no longer ignore the fact that many have developed abuse and dependency situations that require treatment,” he wrote.
Swedish legislation and the organisation of healthcare resources to deal with substance abuse must be comprehensively reviewed, Gerhard Larsson argued.
The report and proposals for addressing the situation will be presented to the government before the end of the year.