The construction of the European Union is a complex and slow process, which is often jeopardized by the tremendous diversity of European communities and the reluctance of State Members to transfer power and resources to the Union.
In the Health area, State Members agreed to maintain the control of health care delivery at a national level. Hence, the only existing European policy on alcohol deals with prevention, not with treatment.
Recent collaborative research projects have studied the state of the art of alcohol treatment policy in most of the EU countries. Under the umbrella of the PHEPA Project (Primary Health Care European Project on Alcohol), a questionnaire has been developed to assess the availability of services for the management of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption (HHAC). Data were obtained from 17 European countries in the areas of: a) health care infrastructures; b) support for treatment provision; c) intervention and treatment availability and accessibility; d) health care providers (clinical accountability and treatment provision); and e) health care users (knowledge, awareness, and help seeking behaviour).
Overall, data show low levels of integration in Health systems and wide heterogeneity between and within countries. Only 57% of the Member States had an official written policy on the management of HHAC, and 50% reported specific funding allocation for the provision of treatment for HHAC.
Clinical guidelines for the management of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption were available in 64% of the countries, and 71% of General Practitioners had access to CME courses on the management of HHAC.
Ongoing research (e.g. Amphora project) aims at deepening our knowledge of the inequalities faced by European citizens in the availability of services to manage HHAC, and also intends to identify the gap between needs and service provision at a European level.