12:11pm Sunday 17 December 2017

Decrease in number of cases treated for problem alcohol use

In 2013, a total of 7,549 cases were treated for problem alcohol use, a drop of 12.3% since 2011.    

Commenting on the findings Dr Graham Love, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board, says,

‘This is the second year we have seen a decrease in new cases presenting for treatment and the number of cases returning for treatment are also now decreasing. Nevertheless, problem alcohol use continues to be a major public health problem in Ireland. It results in harm, to the person, their family and society in general. In particular, polydrug use persists as a problem among those treated for alcohol use. This increases complexity of cases and leads to poorer outcomes for the patient.’

Key findings 

The numbers

  • The total number of cases has reduced two years running, from a peak of 8,604 in 2011, down to 8,336 in 2012 to then 7,549 in 2013.
  • The number of new cases presenting to treatment for the first time decreased by 11.2% from 4,028 in 2012 to 3,578 in 2013.
  • The number of people returning to treatment also decreased, by 9.8% from 4,212 in 2012, to 3,801 in 2013.

Geographical spread

  • Numbers presenting for treatment were highest in Waterford, Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim and Carlow for the period 2009 – 2013. All of these counties reporting more than 240 cases per 100,000 of the population aged 15-64 years.
  • Numbers for the same time period were lowest in Roscommon, Clare, Mayo, Meath and Limerick with less than 75 cases per 100,000 of the population aged 15-64 years presenting to treatment.
  • A total of 22 out of 32 Local Health Offices recorded a decrease in the numbers of cases reported between 2012 and 2013, but no specific geographical trends were observed.

Alcohol with other drugs

  • Almost one-in-five of cases treated for problem alcohol use in 2013 used at least one other drug (polydrug use). 
  • In 2013 the most common drugs used with alcohol were cannabis, followed by cocaine, benzodiazepines and ecstasy. 

Socio-economic characteristics

  • Half of people who presented for treatment started drinking at 15 years of age or younger. There has been little change in this finding over the past five years.
  • Half of those who presented for treatment were aged 40 years or younger. 
  • Males account for the majority of new cases (62.6%) and returning cases (64.0%)
  • The proportion of cases under 18 years of age was 3% in 2013; the number of new cases in this age group has fallen from 6.4% in 2010, to 5.0 %.
  • The proportion in employment showed a decrease from 26.0% in 2009, to 19.7% in 2012, but subsequently increased to 21.5% in 2013.
  • In 2013, almost 5.7% of cases were homeless. Cases returning for treatment more likely to be homeless (7.4%) than new cases (3.8%)

According to Dr Suzi Lyons, Senior Researcher at the Health Research Board,

‘It is notable that fewer people are presenting for problem alcohol treatment, however the reason for this is not yet clear. It could reflect a true decrease in demand for these services. However, it may reflect in part reduced levels of participation or reporting to our treatment database, or a combination of these factors. Further research would be required to fully understand the reason for this recent drop in treated cases.’

A copy of the report, Treated problem alcohol use in Ireland: figures from 2013 from the National Drug Treatment Reporting System, is available on the publications page of the HRB website and at the link below.

ENDS

For more information contact:

Gillian Markey, Communications Manager, Health Research Board

m +353 (0)87 2288514 e gmarkey@hrb.ie


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