‘Severe’ alcohol abuse growing in Ireland

Alcohol remains the “main problem drug” in Ireland with growing numbers of people developing a “severe” alcohol problem by the time they seek treatment, a new report has shown.

Research from the Health Research Board (HRB) showed 55,675 cases were treated for alcohol harm in Ireland between 2011 and 2017.

In 2017, a total of 7,350 cases of problem alcohol were treated in the country, a drop from 7,643 in the previous year. This number stood at 8,876 in 2011.

However, while the number of treatment cases for alcohol has decreased over the seven-year period, a greater proportion suffer from “severe” alcohol abuse.

The study also showed that three in four cases were alcohol dependent, and women showed similar rates of alcohol dependency to men – 68% of women and 74% of men.

Polydrug use – the use of more than one psychoactive substance – affected one in five cases that came forward for treatment. Cannabis was the most common additional drug used.

Dr Darrin Morrissey, chief executive at the HRB, said: “Alcohol remains the main problem drug that people enter treatment for in Ireland.

“The HRB generate this report each year by analysing data from multiple treatment services across Ireland, which provides solid evidence to inform policy and plan health services for alcohol treatment.

“One in five cases seeking treatment report problem use of more than one drug, which is known to make recovery harder. That, in conjunction with the very high percentages of cases that are alcohol dependent, point to the chronic nature of addiction.”

In 2017, the median age of when cases first started drinking alcohol was 16, “similar to previous years”, the study showed.

The median age of treated cases was 41 years old, and more than half (51%) of cases were unemployed.

Dr Suzi Lyons, senior researcher at the HRB, said: “We can see continued increase since 2011 of new cases who were already dependent on alcohol when they present to treatment for the first time, from 50% in 2011 to 68% in 2017.

“This means that more people are presenting when the problem is already severe, which makes treatment more complex and recovery more difficult.”

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Author: Melita Kiely {authorlink}