Ireland still has a drink problem according to new figures which show that 53,763 cases were treated over a six-year period to 2016 and a separate study indicating the main reason for teenagers to start drinking is “to look cool in front of friends”.
The alcohol treatment figures published by the Health Research Board show that 7,643 cases entered treatment in 2016 with alcohol as a main problem drug.
The compares with 4,341 cases for opiates and 2,439 cases for cannabis in the same year, prompting the board’s chief executive, Darrin Morrissey, to state: “‘Alcohol remains the main problem drug that people enter treatment for in Ireland.”
A total of 53,763 cases were treated for problem alcohol use in Ireland between 2010 and 2016 and Suzi Lyons, senior researcher at the Health Research Board said: “The number of cases seeking treatment for alcohol as their main problem drug has plateaued in the last four years.
This could be the result of a real decrease in numbers seeking treatment, the number of submissions to the reporting system, availability of services, or a combination of these factors.
She said the proportion of cases returning to treatment has increased from 46% to 50% of cases treated, pointing to the chronic nature of addiction, while the proportion of new cases presenting for treatment has stabilised since 2012 at 48%.
According to Dr Lyons: “There has been an increase in the number of new cases who were already dependent on alcohol when they present to treatment for the first time, from 56% in 2010 to 60% in 2016. This means that more people are presenting when the problem is already severe and being alcohol dependent can make recovery more difficult.
According to the board figures, over the period in question, two-thirds of cases were men’s, a fifth of cases treated mixed alcohol with other drugs, including an increase over time of the use of benzodiazepines, and there was a fall in 2016 in the rate of cases treated.
Almost three-quarters of cases where the client was alcohol-dependent involved people who were unemployed and overall, more than half of cases involved people who were unemployed, while the proportion who were homeless increased from 5% in 2010, to 8% in 2016.
It also found that the median age to start drinking was 16.
Other research carried out by academics at NUI Galway, led by Kathy Ann Fox, sought the views of 407 first and second-year students on drinking, and their perceptions as to why young people started drinking in the first place.
Preliminary results gathered by the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children research team showed that the most popular belief as to why respondent’s peers drink alcohol was ‘to look cool in front of friends’.
The least likely reason reported was ‘to relax‘.
It also found that drinkers were more likely to report boredom or the desire to feel more confident as reasons for their peers drinking behaviours, but that this was more apparent at the end of an academic year rather than at the beginning.