10k treated for substance abuse in 3 months

Almost 10,000 people received specialist treatment for drug, alcohol and other substance abuse problems in the first three months of the year — including 18 children and teens.

New figures revealed by the HSE show the concerning level of demand on the service included those suffering from alcohol abuse, heroin addiction, serious cocaine problems — and legal, over-the-counter medications.

Details obtained by trade newspaper Medical Independent confirm that between January 1 and March 31 a total of 9,698 people throughout the country were receiving specialist treatment from the public health service.

The rate compares with 9,652 in 2013, 9,419 in 2012 and 9,251 in 2011 — meaning service demand has risen by 5% in the past three years alone, a time when budgets for the drug rehabilitation sector have continued to be cut.

Of the figure, 18 cases involved teens aged 16-19, with the highest levels involving people aged 30-34 (2,128 cases) and those aged 35-39 (2,815 cases).

While an exact breakdown for the three month period was not provided, it is understood alcohol, heroin, and cocaine addiction problems were among the issues to most commonly affect those involved.

At the end of 2013, a total of 597 adults were being treated for alcohol addiction, 286 for heroin abuse, 221 for “other illicit drugs”, and 84 for addiction to over-the-counter medications such as painkillers.

During the same period, the number of under-18s also receiving help from the State for the issues included 34 for alcohol problems, none for heroin abuse, 50 for “other illicit drugs”, and two for over-the-counter medications.

Almost all of the rates of treatment had risen from the start of the year.

Reacting to the HSE national drug treatment centre’s central treatment list figures, Garrett McGovern, a Dublin-based GP specialising in alcohol and substance abuse, said the Government needs can only tackle the issue by investing “more money in treating drug users in primary care”.

He added that more GPs must also consider specialising in the area of addiction due to the ground-swell of difficulties across the country as “even for heroin addiction services are poor outside Dublin, the need is not being met”.

Treatment hotspots

- 9,698 people received treatment for drug and alcohol addictions in the first three months of this year — up 5% on 2011

- Nationally, the worst affected areas for adults for the respective issues are: (alcohol) North Lee area in Cork city (65 cases); (heroin) Dublin north central (52); (other illicit drugs) North Lee (28); (over-the-counter) North Lee (12).

- The worst-affected areas for teens are (alcohol) Dublin south west (18); (heroin) Carlow/Kilkenny and Dublin south west (one each at the start of 2013); (other illicit drugs) Wexford (seven); and (over-the-counter) Waterford and Sligo-Leitrim (one each at the start of 2013).

More in this section