Report shows growing female addiction rates and rise in those seeking help for heroin use

The growth in the number of women seeking treatment for addiction and an alarming rise in heroin use among men seeking help have been revealed by the largest addiction treatment service in the South.

Since the Tabor Group opened its doors 25 years ago, the patient profile has changed from the alcoholic middle-aged man whose drinking tore families apart to a much younger group of addicts, predominantly aged 18-34, most of whom have multiple addictions, according to clinical director Mick Devine.

The number of women seeking treatment also continues to grow, accounting for more than a third of patients in the latest annual report, compared to a 100% male intake in 1989.

“A lot of the older women we see would be secret drinkers, dealing with an empty nest, where their pub is in the home,” said Mr Devine.

Eileen Crosbie, treatment manager at Renewal, an extended treatment centre for women and part of the Tabor Group, said women typically had more complications to deal with when seeking treatment. More than half the women on the Renewal programme have children.

“These children are either placed in foster care or with extended members of the family, which puts an added pressure on the women,” said Ms Crosbie. “Also, once women return to their homes, unlike men, they are returning to the point of their addiction. Their fridge tends to be their pub.”

At Fellowship House, the group’s extended-treatment programme for men, the numbers seeking treatment for heroin use have jumped 17%, from 21% in 2012 to 38% in 2013.

The Trends and Challenges of Addiction report, to be discussed today at the group’s annual conference, which will also hear a third of patients are being treated for non-alcohol/drug addiction, and that this figure is rising every year. These addictions include gambling and eating disorders.

However, alcohol is the most common drug of choice among those in treatment, followed by cannabis.

“For example, of the 219 patients admitted to Tabor Lodge in 2013, 139 were males and 80 female,” said chairman Pat Coughlan.

“Of those, 155 were primarily for alcohol abuse but 50 were for the abuse of other drugs.”

Mr Coughlan said the group has treated 9,000 people in its 25-year existence. “When you think that addiction impacts on average on 10 people around the addicted person — families and other loved ones — 100,000 people have benefited from our centres,” he said.

This year alone, the group fielded 14,000 calls in relation to treatment. Mr Coughlan said that the challenge for the next 25 years will be how to deal with the problems associated with addiction to multiple substances.

Mr Devine said the group also faced funding challenges, particularly with the decision by the Department of Social Protection last year to withdraw its exceptional needs payments.

The Tabor Group conference is held in the River Lee Hotel, Cork, today.


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