In its report, the Health Research Board said this was an “underestimate of the true extent of treated alcohol use” in Ireland as many treatment services were not yet submitting figures to the board.
The report found that:
* About 16,000 people were treated for problem alcohol use between 2004 and 2006.
* The total number of cases rose from nearly 5,000 in 2004 to over 5,600 in 2006.
* The number of new cases rose from about 2,800 to 3,400 in the same period.
“New cases are an indirect indicator of recent trends in problematic alcohol use,” said Dr Jean Long, head of the board’s alcohol and drug research unit.
“The number of cases who returned for treatment also increased, but to a lesser extent, from 2,029 cases in 2004 to 2,110 in 2006. The number of cases that return for treatment are an indirect indication of chronic alcohol use.”
She said the increase could be explained by a rise in problem alcohol use and an increase in the number of treatment centres reporting cases to the national drug treatment reporting system, managed by the research board .
She said it was “essential” to point out that the collection of treatment figures for alcohol was still in the initial stages, and not all services were providing information, including in the east and in the west.
The report said more than a quarter of treated alcohol cases reported use of other drugs. There had been a shift in the other drugs used. Cocaine was the third most common drug in 2004, but was the second most common in 2006.
“The number of cases receiving treatment for problem use of both alcohol and cocaine increased by 40% in the three-year period, although the overall number of such cases is still low,” said Dr Long.
Research had shown that the two drugs taken together create cocaethylene, which increases the toxic effects on the heart.