Decline in problem drinking cases

The number of people being treated for medical issues caused by alcohol continues to fall, according to figures.

Decline in problem drinking cases

There were 7,549 cases of people being treated for problem alcohol use in 2013 — a drop of 12.3% since 2011 and the second year in a row in which the figures fell.

The report, published by the Health Research Board (HRB), also reveals that the number of new cases presenting for treatment for the first time fell by 11.2%, from 4,028 in 2012, to 3,578 in 2013. The number of people returning to treatment fell by 9.8%, from 4,212 in 2012, to 3,801 in 2013.

The figures show that men and people under the age of 40 are more likely to present for treatment due to problem drinking, while there is also a significant minority of those seeking treatment who are homeless.

The figures also list the counties where the numbers presenting for treatment were highest between 2009 and 2013: Waterford, Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, and Carlow.

All of those counties had more than 240 cases per 100,000 of the population aged 15 to 64 years.

By contrast, the counties with the lowest number of cases in the same period were Roscommon, Clare, Mayo, Meath, and Limerick, all with less than 75 cases per 100,000 of the population aged 15 to 64 years.

No specific geographical trends were found in the figures, but according to the HRB, 22 out of 32 Local Health Offices recorded a decrease in the number of cases reported between 2012 and 2013.

Poly-drug use was a factor in one-in-five cases in 2013, with cannabis, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and ecstasy the most likely drugs to be used in combination with alcohol.

Half of those who presented for treatment said they had first started drinking at 15 years of age or under and a similar percentage of those who presented for treatment were aged 40 years or younger.

However, more recently the proportion of cases involving those aged under 18 has been falling, from 6.4% in 2010 to 3% in 2013.

Overall, males present in almost two-thirds of all cases and in 2013 almost 5.7% of cases were homeless.

Suzi Lyons, HRB senior researcher, said the reason for the continuing fall in medical presentations for problem drinking was still not clear.

“It could reflect a true decrease in demand for these services,” she said.

“However, it may reflect in part reduced levels of participation or reporting to our treatment database, or a combination of these factors.”

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