HRB releases latest trends in treated problem alcohol use in Ireland

Key findings from the report include:

  • 42,333 cases were treated for problem alcohol use in the six-year period.  There were 5,525 cases in 2005 which rose to 7,866 cases in 2010, an increase of 43%.
  • 22,626 (53%) were new cases who had come for treatment for the first time, while 18,396 (44%) were treated previously.
  • 61% increase in cases who had been treated previously, from 2, 229 cases in 2005 to 3,583 cases in 2010.
  • Half of all cases treated were aged 39 years or younger.
  • 145% increase in new cases aged under 18, from 109 cases in 2005 to 267 cases in 2010.
  • Half of all cases treated had started drinking alcohol by the time they were 16.
  • 50% of new cases had used alcohol for 19 years or more before seeking treatment.
  • 40% of cases were drinking on a daily basis.
  • The proportion of all cases in employment fell from 39% in 2005 to 24% in 2010.

Dr Suzi Lyons, senior researcher at the HRB said,

‘The number of recorded cases treated for problem alcohol use increased over the six years due to an increase in reporting to the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) but  it is also likely that it reflects a true increase in the number of people requiring treatment for problem alcohol use. Given that some treatment services are yet to participate in the reporting system, the figures underestimate the true extent of treated alcohol use in Ireland’.

While one out of every two cases treated for problem substance use in Ireland between 2005 and 2010 were treated for alcohol, many of those also had problems with other drugs.

Dr Lyons adds,

‘What we see is that almost one in five of those treated for alcohol also have problems with other drugs, with  cannabis being the most common followed by cocaine, ecstasy and benzodiazepines. Poly drug misuse presents a challenge for treatment services’.

New fields recently added to the NDTRS reporting form will allow future Trends Series papers to provide additional data on specific alcohol-related questions, such as the clients preferred type of alcohol; volume of alcohol consumed on a typical drinking day; number of days on which alcohol was consumed in the month prior to treatment; and the extent of the drinking problem. These data will further enable service providers to more fully understand the extent of the problem.

Dr Lyons concluded by saying that NDTRS data is an important source of information for helping to inform health care policy in this area;

‘As the government develops a new, integrated National Substance Misuse Strategy to address alcohol and other drugs issues in the Irish population, there continues to be a clear need for complete and accurate data on those entering treatment for problem alcohol use.’

The full paper HRB Trends Series 11, Trends in treated problem alcohol use in Ireland, 2005 to 2010  is available; from the HRB website at

Media queries should be directed to Brian Cummins, 01 2345136, 086-903 7551  [email protected]

*One case does not necessarily represent one person. The same person can be counted more than once in the same calendar year if they had more than one treatment episode in that year.


Notes for Editors

Information from HRB Trends Series 11: Trends in treated problem alcohol use in Ireland 2005 to 2010, will assist policy makers, service planners and public health practitioners to develop appropriate responses to problem alcohol use in the future.

Since 2004 the NDTRS has collected data on cases in which alcohol was recorded as the main or only reason for seeking treatment. The process of recruiting treatment services that have not participated in the NDTRS to date is on-going. Coverage of cases remains incomplete in some counties. It may be assumed, therefore, that the data presented in this paper underestimate the true extent of treated problem alcohol use in Ireland.

The Health Research Board (HRB) was established in 1986. For the last 25 years it has been Ireland’s lead agency in supporting and funding health research. The HRB’s mission is to improve people’s health, patient care and health service through leading and supporting research and generating knowledge and promoting its application in policy and practice. The HRB has supported research which has played a key role in innovation in Ireland’s health system and its economic development.