06:53am Sunday 20 October 2019

Trends in treated problem drug use: 52% rise in cases entering drug treatment from 2005 to 2010

There was a 52% increase in the total number of cases* entering drug treatment between 2005 and 2010, rising from 5,167 in 2005 to 7,878 in 2010. Opiates were the most common problem drug reported (61%) by cases entering treatment, followed by cannabis (21%) and cocaine (11%) in the six-year period. The increase in treated drug use reflects not only the extent of problem drug use but also greater availability of treatment and compliance with reporting to the NDTRS.

Both the incidence (number of new cases) and the prevalence (number of all cases) of treated problem drug use among 15–64-year-olds living in Ireland increased consistently over the reporting period. The incidence increased from 70 cases per 100,000 in 2005 to 106 cases in 2010. The prevalence increased from 423 cases per 100,000 in 2005 to 544 cases in 2010.

According to lead author, Ms Delphine Bellerose,

‘Over two thirds of cases had problems with more than one drug, most commonly cannabis, alcohol, cocaine and benzodiazepines.  The high proportion of cases using multiple problem substances is a challenge for service providers as this group often require repeated episodes of treatment over time.’

Key findings from the report include:

  • Half of all new cases entering treatment had started to use drugs by the age of 15;
  • In 2010 cannabis was the most common problem drug reported by new cases entering treatment, overtaking opiates;
  • The proportion of cases reporting cocaine or ecstasy as their main problem substance peaked in 2007;
  • The proportion of cases reporting a benzodiazepine (a prescription medication) as a problem drug continues to increase;
  • The number of cases reporting head shop drugs increased significantly, from 17 cases in 2009 to 213 cases in 2010, exceeding the numbers reporting amphetamines, ecstasy and volatile inhalants as problem drugs;
  • The proportion of cases in employment fell from 22% in 2005 to 9% in 2010.

The average annual incidence of treated drug use per 100,000 among 15–64-year-olds was highest in the South East Regional Drugs Task Force (RDTF) area, followed by the North Dublin and the Southern RDTF areas.  There was a slight decrease in the proportion of cases in both HSE Dublin regions and a parallel increase in the South and West HSE regions.

The data show a downward trend in the proportion of cases who reported injecting drugs. This trend is most likely influenced by the more widespread adoption of harm reduction policies and practices in recent years. 

Ms Bellerose adds,

‘The drop in the proportion of cases who were in employment, from 22% in 2005 to 9% in 2010 is most likely a reflection of the current economic climate, and highlights the continued importance of social and occupational reintegration interventions as part of the drug treatment process’

The full report contains detailed analysis on: incidence and prevalence, treatment provision, substances used, patterns of use and socio-demographic characteristics.

The report is available to download from www.hrb.ie/publications.

*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.


For media queries please contact Brian Cummins, email bcummins(at)hrb.ie Phone 01 2345136, Mobile 086-8037551.


Notes for editors:

Information from HRB Trends Series 12: Trends in treated problem drug use in Ireland 2005 to 2010, will assist policy makers, service planners and public health practitioners to develop appropriate responses to problem drug use in the future.

The National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) is an epidemiological database on treated drug and alcohol misuse in Ireland. It was established in 1990 in the Greater Dublin Area and was extended in 1995 to cover all areas of the country.

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.


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