Ireland: Alcohol remains main problem drug in Ireland
55,000+ cases treated between 2011-2017
March 20, 2019
Alcohol remains the main problem drug that people enter treatment for in Ireland, the Health Research Board (HRB) has said.
According to its latest figures, 55,675 cases of problem alcohol use were treated here between 2011 and 2017. The number of treated cases fell from a high of 8,876 in 2011 to 7,350 in 2017, while the number of new cases fells from 52% in 2011 to 48% in 2017.
Almost three-quarters of treated cases were alcohol dependent and similar rates of dependence were found between men and women. In 2017, the average age that those seeking treatment had begun drinking at was 16 years.
“During 2017, 7,350 cases entered treatment with alcohol as a main problem drug. This is a reduction from 2016, which could be the result of a decrease in the number of submissions to the reporting system, availability of services or could be a real decrease in numbers seeking treatment, or a combination of these factors,” explained HRB senior researcher, Dr Suzi Lyons.
However, she pointed out that since 2011, there has been a ‘continued increase’ in the percentage of new cases who were already alcohol dependent when they presented for treatment for the first time – from 50% in 2011 to 68% in 2017.
“This means that more people are presenting when the problem is already severe, which makes treatment more complex and recovery more difficult,” she said.
The HRB figures show that the average age of people being treated for problem alcohol use in 2017 was 41, almost two-thirds were men, and just over half were unemployed.
The figures also show that polydrug use – the problem use of more than one drug – was an issue for one-fifth of all cases presenting for problem alcohol use.
Cannabis was the most common additional drug used, followed by cocaine and then benzodiazepines.
“One-in-five cases seeking treatment report problem use of more than one drug, which is known to make recovery harder. That, in conjunction with the very high percentages of cases that are alcohol dependent, point to the chronic nature of addiction,” commented HRB chief executive, Dr Darrin Morrissey.