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Basic Trends Pertaining to Alcohol Use in Poland PDF Print E-mail
Alcohol Use by Youth
Alcohol consumption is the most common risk behavior among teenagers (ESPAD, HBSC, Badanie Mokotowskie studies). Following a rapid surge in alcohol consumption by youth in the years 1989–2000, the growth tendency has stopped and even reversed. Recent studies (ESPAD 2007, HBSC 2006, Badania Mokotowskie 2004) show decrease in general alcohol consumption in the population of 15 and 17-year olds. However, a growing number of girls and young women drink alcohol. Ratios for alcohol consumption by girls tend to draw level with ratios observed for boys. Over 50% of surveyed 15-year olds admit that they drink alcohol often (drinking within the 30 days prior to the survey), 32% of 17–year old boys were drunk within the 30 days prior to the survey, and only 4% of them are teetotalers.

Health Damage of the Addicts.

Based on European rates and results of Polish social surveys, the number of people addicted to alcohol in Poland can be estimated at ca. 860,000.[1] (including about 707,000 men and nearly 153,000 women).

In 2006, 244,233 people diagnosed with disorders caused by alcohol use were treated within the system of psychiatry institutions (all types of detoxification treatment clinics, mental heath outpatient clinics, psychoactive substance dependency treatment clinics). As compared to 2005, the number of patients admitted to psychiatry institutions due to disorders caused by alcohol use (detoxification treatment clinics, mental heath outpatient clinics, clinics treating other types of addictions) increased by 4,309.

Based on a study by Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology, risk of death is 4.8 times higher for alcoholics than for general population.

Health Damage Related to Alcohol Abuse.

Studies commissioned in 2005 by the State Agency for Prevention of Alcohol-Related Problems (PARPA) show that 16% of adult Poles population cross the threshold of alcohol abuse[2]. The largest growth in this scope has been observed among young women aged 18–29. Every tenth woman in the group (10.2%) displays hazardous drinking habits. In the male population, the largest growth has been observed among men drinking in a hazardous way aged 50 (50% growth). High rate of growth in hazardous behaviors among men has been observed among the unemployed and it amounted to 48%.

Diseases resulting from alcohol abuse include hypertension, liver diseases (cirrhosis, hepatitis, steatosis), various types of tumors, and mental disorders, especially depression and anxiety.

Due to causes directly and indirectly related to alcohol abuse, more than a dozen thousand people die each year in Poland and about 20% of patients at emergency wards are people abusing alcohol[3].

Another type of health damage are fetal defects caused by alcohol consumption by pregnant women. Among the most frequent problems is FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) observed as a result of alcohol consumption by a pregnant woman. About 70% of children diagnosed with FAS are not capable to live an independent life. Poland-wide surveys commissioned by PARPA in 2005 showed that almost 33% of pregnant women aged 18–40 drank alcohol. This result indicates that a very high risk of alcohol-related fetal defects and low level of awareness in this scope is observed in Poland. About 70%–80% of children at children’s homes originate from families of alcoholics, where the risk of FAS is very high.

Alcohol Related Family Life Disorders, including Domestic Violence

The number of people drinking alcohol in a detrimental manner amounts to 2.5 m, whereas the number of addicts exceeds 860,000. About 3–4m people, including 1.5–2 m children, live in families with alcohol-related problems and these are mainly children who are harmed by living in families with alcohol-related problems.

As the studies of the Institute of Health Psychology at Polish Association of Psychology show, acts of violence are observed in at least 66% of families with alcohol-related problems.

Surveys conducted in 2002 (CBOS) indicate that conflicts based on alcohol abuse are observed in almost every fifth Polish family (18%). In the 2005 study, 8% of respondents declared that alcohol abuse by household members was the reason for conflicts and arguments in the family.

In 2006, 7,065 offenders were imprisoned, including 6,208 convicts (together with 4,042 persons convicted for harassment – art. 207 of the penal code) and 857 perpetrators were temporarily arrested for crimes against the family. In 2006, municipal boards for solving alcohol-related problems conducted almost 38,000 interviews with victims of violence.

The Police, as part of the implementation of the Blue Cards procedure for intervention of relevant services in domestic violence cases, conducted over 96,000 interventions, during which more than 96,000 offenders were identified; more than 74,000 of them were under the influence of alcohol.

In 2007, as part of the Blue Line Poland-wide hotline for victims of domestic violence, more than 10,000 calls related to domestic violence, addiction to alcohol and other psychoactive substances were answered.

However, the main problem is still low level of social awareness and non-reacting or indifference to acts of violence.

Violation of Law by Persons under the Influence of Alcohol, including Drunk-driving.

In 2007, the police reported 200,551 suspects who were under the influence of alcohol, which constitutes 61% of the total number of offenders.

Also in 2007, drivers under the influence of alcohol caused 3,420 accidents
409 mortalities and 4,928 injured persons.

Reports show 159.346 cases of driving vehicles after the use of alcohol or while intoxicated. Out of them, there were 23.745 cases of driving vehicles after the use of alcohol, including 15.771 cases of motor vehicle driving, and 135.601 cases of driving vehicles while intoxicated, including 73.500 of motor vehicle driving.

In 2007, intoxicated participants of traffic caused 6.503 accidents. Drivers are the largest group of intoxicated culprits. Intoxicated drivers constitute 6,9% of the total number of drivers who cause car accidents.

In 2007, 224.213 intoxicated people were taken to detoxification detention centers, including 2.682 minors (2.381 boys and 301 girls); 79.452 intoxicated adults and 636 minors were taken to police detention centers; and 84.764 people were taken by the police to their places of residence. The total number of people taken by the police in 2007 amounted to 441.897.

In 2007, in total 21.409 motions for punishment for the contravention of the provisions of the act on upbringing in sobriety and counteracting alcoholism were filed to magistrate’s courts.

Violation of Law by Persons Trading in Alcohol.

Administrative and legal restrictions pertaining to alcohol accessibility and licensing the production and sales of alcohol are among the most efficient methods of limiting the scope of alcohol-related problems.

In the years 2000–2006, a fall in the number of retail and catering facilities selling alcoholic beverages without a license has been observed (in 2000 – 3.3% of the total number of controlled facilities, and in 2006 only 1.1%).

Over 7 years (2000–2006), Customs Services reported more than a twofold decrease in the number of cases related to imported alcohol products that were subject of offences; in 2006 – 4,775 cases and in 2000 – 11,270 cases.

At the same time, the number of detected cases of smuggling or illegal marketing of alcohol has grown from 51,000 in 2004 to 172,000 in 2005 and 177,000 in 2006.

However, the sale of alcohol to minors is still a widespread phenomenon. Poland-wide surveys staged in 2004 showed that nearly 80% of sellers sell alcohol to the under-aged. The results of ESPAD study show that 15-year olds do not have any problem with buying alcohol; only 12% of them trying to buy beer, 15.5% attempting to buy wine and 11.2% trying to boy vodka were met with refusal.

The number of withdrawn licenses in 2007 exceeded 1.260, whereas in 2006, more than 1,500 licenses were annulled.

Economic Losses and Damaged Working Environment.

Intoxication at the place of work is the cause of absenteeism and reduced productivity of people employed in various sectors of economy.

Data of Chief Labor Inspectorate show that alcohol consumption constituted 1,2% of all causes of accidents investigated by labor inspectors in 2007 (in 2003–2004, it was 0.6%, in 2005 – 0.8% and in 2006 1%).

According to official data, alcohol consumption per capita in liters was as follows (data of GUS- Central Statistical Office):


Consumption Structure:

Over the past 10 years, a distinct growth in the share of beer in alcoholic beverage consumption structure (from almost 39% in 1997 to nearly 57% in 2006) parallel to decrease in the share of wine and mead has been observed. In the years 1997-2002, a few percentage point reduction in the consumption of spirits has been observed, whereas after the lowering of excise duty in 2003, their consumption grew and has remained on a steady level (approx. 30%).

Based on a survey of Sopocka Pracownia Badań Społecznych commissioned by PARPA, increase in the consumption of spirits has directly affected the consumption structure. Growth in the share of sprits in the total alcohol consumption structure was parallel to the fall in the share of beer. The highest increase in consumption was observed in the group who drink the largest amount of alcohol; i.e. more than 12 litters of pure alcohol per year. Over 12 months (from June 2002 to June 2003), their population increased by more than 1/3 (by 35%). The number of consumers who drank a lot grew by almost ¼ (by 23%). At present, the tendency (a larger share in the structure of alcoholic drink consumption) is diminishing, despite wider economic accessibility of alcohol.

Structure of alcoholic drink consumption (as percentage) based on data collected by GUS


Prepared by the Department of Public Education, Analyses and Foreign Cooperation at the State Agency for Prevention of Alcohol-Related Problems


[1] These data pertain to adults only. Anderson P., Baumberg B. (2006) Alcohol in Europe. London: Institute of Alcohol Studies (2006). Polish edition: Alkohol w Europie, Wyd. Parpamedia, 2007, Badania wzorców spożywania alkoholu PBS 2005 (PBS survey of alcool consumption patterns 2005) commissioned by PARPA

[2] Consuming more than 10 liters of pure 100% alcohol per year by men and 7.5 liters by women

[3] Based on studies carried out by Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology together with Public Health Institute in Berkeley, California (Cherpitel, C.J., Ye Y., Moskalewicz J., Świątkiewicz G., (2005) Screening for Alcohol Problems in Two Emergency Services Samples in Poland: Comparison of the RAPS4, CAGE and AUDIT. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 80, 201–207).

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