Alcohol abusers drink week's allowance in one day

Alcohol abusers drink week's allowance in one day
Wine and spirits were the preferred drinks for female alcohol abusers.

The severity of the drink problem among those seeking alcohol treatment has become much worse as they drink more in a typical day than is recommended for an entire week. 

The Health Research Board has also found that there continues to be a sharp increase year-on-year in those with an alcohol problem who are also abusing cocaine.

The HRB report for 2019 shows a slight increase on the previous year in the total numbers in treatment for alcohol.

It again highlights the gender differences in the drink being abused, with 35% of women reporting wine and 19% of them reporting beer, compared to 9% and 43% respectively among men.

The report said both men and women in treatment are, on average, drinking more in a typical day than recommended by the HSE over an entire week for low-risk drinking.

Findings in the HRB National Drug Treatment Reporting System 2019 report show:

  • Total numbers in treatment rose slightly from 7,464 in 2018 to 7,546 in 2019 – continuing an increase since 2017 (7,350), but down from 7,819 in 2013;
  • More than 5,100 cases (68%) were classified as alcohol dependent in 2019, an increase of 16% from 4,450 in 2013;
  • The rise in dependence is even greater among new cases, accounting for almost two thirds of cases in 2019, compared to just half of cases in 2013 

HRB senior researcher  Suzi Lyons said: “HRB figures show that the number of cases already dependent on alcohol when they present to treatment. Seven in ten cases are seeking help when their alcohol use is already severe which makes treatment more complex and recovery more difficult.” 

Other statistics show that men account for two thirds of cases and that half of all people are unemployed.

The report found a significant increase (29%) in cases involving homeless people, rising from 507 in 2013 to 654 in 2019. Numbers involving Travellers rose from 144 to 178 in the same period.

On the positive side, the number of under-18s fell, from 220 to 107.

The report said that a fifth of cases involve problem use of other drugs along with alcohol. There has been a steady increase in cases of cocaine being the additional drug, jumping from 458 cases in 2013 to 844 in 2019, making it now the second most common additional drug.

Cannabis remains the most common additional substance, but numbers have dropped since 2013.

The report shows that one in three women entering alcohol treatment are aged 50 years or over, compared to one in four men.

Preferred drinks for men were beer (43%) of cases), spirits (37%) and wine (9%), whereas preferred drinks for women were wine (35%) and spirits (35%) followed by beer (19%).

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