Alcoholism is one of the most prevalent addictions in Andalucía and a problem which affects the widest age range. During 2018 a total of 5,614 people began treatment to overcome their alcohol-related problems, according to the regional government's Ministry of Health and Families. The figures were released to coincide with World No-Alcohol Day in October last year.
It tends to be older people who attend the regional government's Outpatient Treatment Centres In fact, very few young people receive treatment for alcohol addiction, no more than 0.3 per cent of the total, although there is no hiding the fact that alcoholism is a problem among young people and they are beginning to start drinking at an earlier and earlier age.
The average age when people begin to drink alcohol is 16.4 years, although males tend to start earlier, at 15.9 years, and females later, at 18.7 years on average. In any case, the phenomenon of alcohol consumption among young people, who drink frequently and in groups, such as in the 'botellones', or impromptu parties in public streets and squares, is a matter of concern and can bring on addiction at an earlier age.
Alcohol continues to be the substance for which more people receive treatment in Andalucía. In fact, 25 per cent of people in the region who began treatment last year did so for alcohol addiction. About 40 per cent of those who start treatment do so voluntarily; 30 per cent are referred from GPs or health service staff and 17.5 per cent through recommendation and support from families and friends.
World No-Alcohol Day
World No-Alcohol Day takes place on 2 October each year, and the slogan for the most recent one was 'Today I'm not drinking, I'm proving my freedom'. The Junta de Andalucía organises events on this day to raise awareness of the severity and size of this problem, which in many cases is hidden and not admitted by those who suffer from it because it is considered normal to drink on social occasions.
The regional Ministry of Health and Families highlights the promotion of a healthy lifestyle, the importance of prevention and the high morbidity rate associated with alcoholism. The coordinator of Addictions, Pedro Seijo, has said that "alcoholism is an illness, so the treatment has to be adapted to individual needs and is multifactorial".
The Andalusian government has also set up a Plan for Drugs and Addictions, which establishes preventive strategies to prevent or reduce different addictive behaviours. It includes a Healthy Lifestyle Habits programme, for example, which is available at schools in the region and sustained by public funds.
This programme is designed for secondary school pupils and it aims to reinforce the message of the importance of responsible use of technologies and Internet.
The Junta also has another community programme, focused on preventing drug dependency. This is called 'Ciudades ante las Drogas' (Towns against Drugs), and is carried out in conjunction with local councils. The main objective is to reduce or alleviate the use and/or abuse of substances and other addictions among the young population and other risk groups.