The number of people receiving treatment for alcohol dependency in Ireland is considerably less than the number of people with drink problems, according to the findings of new research.
A study by the Health Research Board said the rate of admissions of people for treatment for their alcohol problems was “sub-optimal”, give the high level of alcohol consumption and alcohol dependence in the adult population.
It is estimated that 690 out of every 100,000 people need treatment for their alcohol dependency in the Republic each year based on evidence which indicates around 10% of those with an alcohol problem will seek help in any given year.
However, an analysis of more than 44,000 people aged 18-64 years who were treated for alcohol use disorder (AUD) between 2015 and 2019 show that the national treatment rate was 270 cases per 100,000 population.
“If the population prevalence of alcohol dependence is correct, these findings suggest that only 2%-3% of those with dependence are entering treatment each year,” the study noted.
It also revealed widely varying treatment rates in different parts of the country with a fivefold difference between the highest and lowest rates.
The highest rate was in Waterford at 633 cases per 100,000 population with more than 500 cases in Donegal and Sligo.
The lowest rate was in Meath at 119 cases per 100,000 — less than half the national rate — while the rate was also below 150 cases per 100,000 in Roscommon, Mayo and Kildare.
The study’s lead researcher, Anne Marie Carew, said the number of treatment places available was not the sole reason for the comparatively low uptake of treatment services in Ireland.
“There are known issues with people recognising that they have a problem with alcohol,” said Dr Carew.
The report stated: “There are substantial benefits to routine alcohol screening, early intervention, and referral to treatment.”
It noted that alcohol treatment is proven to be effective in reducing harms as well as being cost-effective.
Among health problems associated with excessive alcohol consumption are liver cirrhosis, various types of cancer, increased likelihood of drink driving, intentional self-harm, injury, and risky sexual behaviour.
The most recently available figures estimate that almost seven in every 100 Irish adults are alcohol-dependent.