Alcohol Abuse in Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by ArtesiaWells/

As Sweden experiences a growing alcohol abuse crisis with one in ten Swedes drinking considerably more than the official guidelines recommend, the Swedes have taken on a new challenge to study the problem, report findings, and implement public health solutions to reduce excessive alcohol consumption among its population.

In light of new data on a growing alcohol problem in Sweden, Swedish epidemiologists recently researched and published new data that shows a direct link between alcohol consumption and several potentially life-threatening health problems.

In light of that data and countless other studies like it, people must drink less. No amount of alcohol consumption is completely safe, as there is always a degree of health risk in any amount of drinking. Unfortunately, many people still see alcohol consumption as being harmless.

Do we now have enough data to show people why they should not consume alcohol to excess?

Alcohol Abuse and Cardiovascular Implications— Reporting on a Swedish Study

A Swedish study on the connection between alcohol use and cardiovascular disease was recently published by the American Heart Association’s medical journal. The findings were simple and to the point. The researchers proved that there is a causal relationship between higher alcohol consumption and increased risk of stroke and peripheral artery disease. And while the study indicated that more research was required to prove a causal relationship between higher alcohol consumption and other forms of heart disease, there is compelling reason to believe that drinking alcohol in large amounts has a direct, negative effect on heart health.

The published study went into detail on its findings. According to the research, heavy alcohol use can triple one’s risk for peripheral artery disease. Peripheral artery disease refers to the narrowing of the arteries, leading to a reduction of blood flow to the extremities and a host of other problems.

The study found that heavy alcohol use also has the potential to increase stroke by as much as 27 percent. And last but not least, the study found a direct link between alcohol misuse and coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, and aortic aneurysm.

“Our study indicates that alcohol consumption increases the risk of high blood pressure and certain cardiovascular diseases and, therefore, should be consumed in moderation or not at all. We cannot say that alcohol consumption below a certain amount is ‘safe.’”

Susanna Larsson, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute and the lead researcher, commented on the findings. “Our study indicates that alcohol consumption increases the risk of high blood pressure and certain cardiovascular diseases and, therefore, should be consumed in moderation or not at all. We cannot say that alcohol consumption below a certain amount is ‘safe.’”

Alcohol Consumption Harms Multiple Areas of the Body

While the Swedish study is a good look at the harsh nature of alcohol addiction, it is only a glimpse at the full harm that excessive alcohol consumption causes the human body. Every major system and area within the body experiences some degree of damage when alcohol is introduced into the body.

Alcohol harms:

Doctor with patient
Photo by monkeybusinessimages/
  • The brain. Alcohol interferes with the brain’s neurological communication pathways. Excessive drinking over time can even change the way the brain looks and works.
  • The heart. A shortlist of additional heart conditions caused or worsened by alcohol consumption include cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, and high blood pressure.
  • The liver. As the liver is responsible for removing waste products and toxins from the body and is the organ almost solely responsible for processing alcohol, the liver is severely affected by alcohol consumption. Some liver conditions caused by alcohol misuse include steatosis (fatty liver disease), alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
  • The pancreas. Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can lead to pancreatitis and which can also prevent proper digestion.
  • Alcohol Causes Cancer. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “the more alcohol a person drinks, particularly the more they drink over time, the more likely they are to develop alcohol-related cancer.” As of 2009, about 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths were directly related to alcohol (19,500 deaths).

Alcohol Abuse in Sweden

While it does not always make news headlines, Sweden is experiencing increasing alcohol misuse, especially among the elderly. That is particularly concerning, as elderly individuals are generally more at risk for cardiovascular complications.

According to the Karolinska Institute, more than one million Swedes consume alcohol in a way that is considered harmful. That means about one in ten Swedes are either drinking too often, or they are drinking too much when they drink, or both. 300,000 Swedes (almost 3% of the total population) are estimated to have developed a dependence on alcohol.

Thankfully, Swedish public health officials recognize the nationwide drinking problem, and they’re working to solve it. The first step? Reducing the stigma connected to alcohol. Sven Andréasson, a professor of Social Medicine at Karolinska Institute’s Department of Public Health Sciences, commented on the matter. “Alcohol dependence is a stigmatized area. How to make it less stigmatized, and thereby easier to seek help? Part of it is fairly easy to change. For example, make sure to have nice premises and treat people with normal respect and kindness. It is worth mentioning this because people have been browbeaten and ordered around in a different way when it comes to this area than what is normally the case within the health services.”

Addiction Treatment—Alcohol Addicts Require Help

Swedish husband and wife solving alcohol problem
Photo by KatarzynaBialasiewicz/

Because of the harsh physical and psychological nature of alcohol withdrawal and many other factors, it is almost impossible for addicts to stop using alcohol on their own. Alcohol addicts become incredibly reliant on alcohol to meet physical, psychological, and personal needs, and going even just one day without a drink will likely seem impossible.

That’s why alcohol addicts must be helped with rehab programs offered by drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers. If you know someone struggling with alcohol misuse, please do your best to help them into a residential drug treatment center as soon as possible.

Narconon offers a unique and highly beneficial drug rehabilitation program. Through an approach that addresses all aspects of addiction, including what initially set the individual onto a substance abuse pathway, Narconon can help recovering addicts achieve a substance-free life. Please contact Narconon today to take the first step towards helping your loved one get better.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.