If anyone in Ireland sustains an illusion that we do not have an alcohol abuse problem in this country, the latest report from the Health Research Board (HRB) offers a sobering reminder of a grim reality.
There were more than 54,000 cases of people being treated for problem alcohol use in Ireland between 2012 and 2018, with almost 7,500 cases last year alone.
The research also reveals that most heavy drinkers are already heavily dependent on alcohol when they seek treatment and many drink more in a day than is safe to do in a week. That makes treatment more complex and more difficult for health professionals who have to deal with alcohol related illnesses.
Alcohol abuse brings misery not just to the drinker but to many people within his or her orbit.
What is worrying is not the overall figure — startling though that is — but the fact that the research shows problem drinking begins on average at the age of 15, when most young people in Ireland sit their Junior Certificate exams. That is a chilling reflection on the activities of our youth.
If the problem begins that young, part of the solution must lie in education at classroom level. The HRB’s National Drug Treatment Reporting System database is not designed to offer a solution but it is an essential tool to tackle what is not just a national problem but a national crisis.