Rate of chronic alcohol use jumps over last five years

Rates of chronic alcohol use have jumped over the last five years, official figures show.

This has come at a time when the number of people seeking treatment who are unemployed has also risen sharply.

A report by the Health Research Board also discovered that opposite ends of the country report by far the highest level of alcohol abuse — with rates in the south-east and north-west as many as three times higher than the national average.

The HRB study found that 40,000 cases were treated for problem alcohol use between 2008 and 2012: increasing from 7,940 in 2008 to a height of 8,604 in 2011, before dropping to 8,336 in 2012. A breakdown of the figures show:

-New cases increased from 3,833 in 2008 to 4,520 in 2011, falling to 4,028 in 2012;

-Previously treated cases — reflecting continuing chronic usage — rose by 17%, from 3,606 in 2008 to 4,212 in 2012 (3,971 in 2011);

-Incidence of alcohol abuse — the number of new cases in a population — rose nationally from 120 per 100,000 people in 2008 to 141 in 2011, dropping to 125 in 2012;

-Prevalence of alcohol abuse — the proportion of a population with the problem — increased from 248 per 100,000 in 2008 to 270 in 2011, falling slightly to 261 in 2012.

“The decrease between 2011 and 2012 reflects a fall in the number of new cases presenting for the first time,” said HRB lead researcher Suzi Lyons.

“However, there was an increase in the number of cases returning for treatment which reflects a growth in the number of cases with chronic alcohol use problems.”

The report provides a breakdown on incidence rates across the country, revealing big differences.

Compared to the national average in 2012 of 125 per 100,000 people, the highest rates were in Waterford (310), Donegal (289), Sligo (288), Leitrim (276), Wexford (224), Carlow (223), and Tipperary (221).

The lowest rates were in the west and mid-west, including Clare (60) and Roscommon (68), and the east, including Wicklow (71) and Dublin (84).

Much of the midlands and the south had rates above the national average. In Cork, the rate was 159 and in Kerry it stood at 174.

Dr Lyons warned that reporting levels were inconsistent in some regions and that this could underestimate rates in those areas.

The report found that the age at which drinking started has remained the same over the years, at 16.

In terms of socio-demographic factors, there were slight increases in the number and percentage under the age of 18 across the categories. A total of 276 people under the legal drinking age received treatment in 2012, compared to 229 in 2008.

There was also a rise in the number and percentage who left school aged 14 or under: up from 1,001 in 2008 to 1,181 in 2012.

Most dramatically, there was a substantial drop in the number who were in employment, from 2,314 (30% of cases) in 2008 to 1,609 (20% of cases) in 2012.

The gender breakdown has remained largely the same with two thirds male and one third female.

Meanwhile, an alcohol industry group said new CSO/Revenue figures showed alcohol consumption in Ireland dropped by almost 8% in 2013.

Kathryn D’Arcy of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland said consumption had fallen by 25% since 2011.

“This issue is not how much we drink, but how we drink; and the industry wants to work with all of the relevant stakeholders to deliver an evidence-based approach to alcohol misuse,” said Ms D’Arcy.

“This Alcohol Awareness Week, we are calling on Government, educators and health stakeholders to be brave, to allow industry be part of the solution.”

www.hrb.ie

By region

Drug task force areas with rising alcohol problems:

-South-east regional task force: 1,640 in 2012 (1,324 in 2008).

-Southern regional: 1,186 (854).

-Midlands regional: 619 (483).

-Dublin south inner city local task force: 140 (90).

-Cork local: 424 (370).

-Dublin 12 local: 129 (88).

-Dun Laoghaire local: 144 (119).

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