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Alcoholism, its causes and treatment in the social representations constructed by Brazilian Family Health professionals

Health sciences define alcoholism as a multifaceted syndrome. Guidelines for treatment include adoption of the harm reduction paradigm and the essential role of Primary Health Care (PHC) towards the wide range of alcohol problems. This research aimed at understanding the social representations of alcoholism constructed by Brazilian PHC professionals, working at Family Health Centers (FHC). We conducted semi-structured interviews with 40 graduated health professionals who worked in 11 different FHC located in a municipality in southeast Brazil. Data were treated with thematic content analysis. We highlight the following results: professionals objectified the alcoholic as a patient who did not search for treatment and/or who threatened the normal functioning of the FHC; professionals considered social and psychological factors as the main causes of alcoholism; they did not mention the concept of harm reduction, nor well-defined treatment protocols. The causal attribution and the representational field inherent to the social representations contributed to anchor alcoholism as a "plague" of poverty. The FHC were perceived simultaneously as important and impotent towards alcoholism. We conclude that the implementation of alcohol-related care strategies must consider the intergroup relations between professionals and patients.

alcoholism; social representation; Primary Health Care; Family Health; harm reduction

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