NICE issues primary care alcohol treatment advice

NICE has issued the first clinical guidance for diagnosing and treating alcohol dependency in primary care.

Alcohol: GPs should be able to assess severity of dependence (JH Lancy)
Alcohol: GPs should be able to assess severity of dependence (JH Lancy)

GPs should be able to assess patients' alcohol dependence into categories of mild, moderate and severe, and use validated screening questionnaires to select the appropriate intervention.

Healthcare professionals should examine current practice and identify which local professionals are competent to identify harmful drinking and alcohol dependence.

In addition, they must identify what training is needed and which formal assessment tools are currently used.

Writing in GP, Dr Linda Harris, who co-authored the guidance, said updated advice was needed to tackle current shortcomings in care for alcohol dependency.

'Services for assisted alcohol withdrawal and treatment vary across the UK and there is a lack of intensive community-based withdrawal programmes,' she said.

It is estimated that nearly a quarter of the adult population in England consumes alcohol in a way that is potentially harmful to their health. Four per cent of adults in England are alcohol dependent.

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