Fred Nyberg: Focus should be on the age at which an alcohol problem starts

2023-09-15

According to the National Board of Health and Welfare's new recommendations regarding hazardous use of alcohol, healthcare shall offer support to people who consume four standard glasses on one or more occasions a month. "If you really want to tackle the problem, focus should be on the age at which an alcohol problem starts," says Fred Nyberg, Professor em. at Uppsala University, in a comment to Swedish Radio.

Fred Nyberg, professor em., Faculty of Pharmacy
Fred Nyberg, Professor em., Faculty of Pharmacy

The National Board of Health and Welfare has published new recommendations for when healthcare shall offer support to people with hazardous alcohol consumption. For men, the limit is lowered to ten standard glasses (1 standard glass corresponds to 33 cl of strong beer) per week, for women the limit is left unchanged at ten standard glasses. Also those who consume four standard glasses or more on the same occasion once a month or more often shall be offered counseling. "These recommendations are a tool in health care’s work to identify persons at risk and to support a reduction in alcohol consumption among them," says Thomas Lindén, Head of the Department for Knowledge-Based Policy of Health Care at the National Board of Health and Welfare.

A late alcohol-debut reduces the risk of addiction
A late alcohol-debut reduces the risk of addiction

“The problem is not limited to the amount of alcohol consumed per month or occasion. If you really want to tackle the problem, focus should rather be on when an alcohol problem starts. Anyone who starts using drugs before the age of 15 is up to six times more likely to develop an addiction than those who wait until the age of 18. The fact is that already at preschool age, we can identify children in need of extra support, and here society has the opportunity to make a very important contribution,” states Fred Nyberg, Professor em. at Uppsala University, in a comment to Sveriges Radio.

Swedish Radio is currently also broadcasting Beroende med Sanna Lundell, a series which in eight parts sheds light on addictions from a scientific perspective as well as the myths and lack of knowledge surrounding them. In episode 4, Fred Nyberg talks about his own research, but also presents an overview of the current state of knowledge.

Sanna Lundell, journalist
Sanna Lundell, journalist

“Previously, focus was exclusively on psychological factors and childhood experiences. Today, Brain Imaging Technology has enabled science to show that drugs, such as heroin, cause pathological changes in the brain that cause people to end up in a constant craving, where the only thing that help is continuous use of the drug. At this stage we can trace changes in the brain’s physiology that we can identify as an addiction.

In the series Narkotikan och arvsynden, focus is on co-dependency. Here we meet relatives who are drawn into their children's crime and abuse, among them Monika, whose son Johan turns to drugs in his early teens. After dropping out of school he runs away from home. For the family, it is the start of a downward spiral affecting both parents and siblings. "I knew of things that my parents weren’t aware of. I think I was trying to protect my brother in some weird way. It kept me in shame and guilt for many years," says Johan's little sister Emelie.

“Co-dependency is about identifying yourself in a problem where you wipes out your own interests, putting all your energy on a loved one who is addicted to a drug. When you don't understand that you are being duped, adapt and promise yourself to "help just one more time". But it steals a lot of energy, it creates stress, in the long run you can end up depressed, running the risk of, as many seem to do, hitting the wall,” says Fred Nyberg, who in episode 3 describes both the problem and his own years of work to lift co-dependency on society's agenda.

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CONTACT

Fred Nyberg, Professor em.
Uppsala University, U-FOLD
Fred.Nyberg@farmbio.uu.se

text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Mikael Wallerstedt, Daniel Stigefelt​

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Last modified: 2024-04-04