Over 56,000 people in Ireland get help for alcohol abuse

More than 56,000 people across the country have been treated for problem alcohol use between 2009 and 2015.

Latest figures from the Health Research Board show the number of cases treated increased from 7,993 in 2009 to 8,876 in 2011.

Since then, the numbers have decreased year-on-year to 7,616 in 2015.

The proportion of new cases of problem alcohol use fell 54.1% in 2009 to 46.7% in 2015, with nearly four out of 10 cases being treated in residential facilities.

Half of all of those in treatment for problem alcohol use started drinking alcohol at or before the age of 16.

The average age of those seeking help for alcohol abuse was 41 in 2015 — up from 38 in 2009. Two out of three cases treated involve men.

Three out of five of all cases were classified as alcohol dependent, while three out of five of those who have never been treated for problem alcohol use before were classified as alcohol dependent.

The proportion who were homeless increased from 4% in 2009 to 7.5% in 2015.

One fifth (18.7%) of those treated for problem alcohol use also reported using other drugs in 2015, similar to previous years.

Cannabis (63.6%) was the most common additional drug used followed by cocaine (39.7%). Benzodiazepines were the third most common additional drug reported among cases treated for problem alcohol use (32.6%)

The proportion of cases reporting benzodiazepines as an additional problem rose from 17.7% in 2009 to 32.6%, while the proportion of cases treated for problem alcohol use who reported MDMA as an additional problem drug dropped from 26.9% in 2009 to 12.9%.

The proportion of cases who reported a novel psychoactive substance as an additional problem peaked at 5.5% of treated cases in 2011. Since then the proportion has dropped to a low of 0.7% in 2014, rising slightly to 1.6% in 2015.

Commenting on some of the trends between 2009 and 2015, senior researcher at the Health Research Board Suzi Lyons said alcohol is the main problem drug for people seeking treatment.

“During 2015, 7,616 people sought treatment for alcohol as the main problem drug compared to 4,732 for opiates and 2,786 for cannabis.

“There has been a decrease in the number of cases seeking treatment for alcohol as their main problem drug. This could be the result of a real decrease in numbers seeking treatment, a change in the participation of services reporting cases, availability of services, or a combination of these factors,” she said.

Dr Lyons said the number of people seeking treatment for the first time was declining.

“The main decrease is seen in the number of new cases presenting for treatment.

“The proportion of new cases decreased from 54.1% in 2009 to 46.7% in 2015. This means fewer new cases are entering treatment.”

“However, there has been an increase in the number of new cases who were classified as dependent on alcohol when they presented to treatment for the first time, from 41.5% in 2009 to 57.% in 2015,” she said.

“This makes treatment and recovery more difficult.”


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