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Press Release

Press release

40,000 cases treated for problem alcohol use over five years - HRB report latest figures

1 April 2014

More than 40,000 cases were treated for problem alcohol use between 2008 and 2012 according to new figures from the Health Research Board (HRB).

High level findings

  • The total number of cases increased from 7,940 in 2008, to 8,604 in 2011; then decreased to 8,336 in 2012.
  • The number of new cases decreased in 2012, while numbers returning for treatment increased.
  • One-in-five are using other drugs along with alcohol.
  • The proportion of cases in employment has decreased from 30% in 2008 to 20% in 2012.
  • There are notable regional differences in the numbers presenting for treatment.
  •  In 2012, two out of three cases presenting were male and the median age of cases was 40 years old.
  • Age 16 remains the median age that people in treatment started drinking - below the legal age. This has not changed for five years (2008 – 2012).

According to Graham Love, Chief Executive of the Health Research Board,

‘These figures indicate the level of harmful drinking taking place in Ireland. The adoption of the Public Health Alcohol Bill, which includes the introduction of minimum pricing, the regulation of the marketing and advertising of alcohol, and the health labelling of alcohol products, should help address key areas of alcohol-harm reduction among Irish people.'

Commenting on the findings HRB lead researcher, Dr Suzi Lyons, says,

‘The decrease between 2011 and 2012 reflects a fall in the number of new cases presenting for the first time. However, there was an increase in the number of cases returning for treatment which reflects a growth in the number of cases with chronic alcohol use problems.

The overall decrease could reflect a drop in people presenting for treatment, levels of participation and reporting to the HRB by the services Nationwide or a combination of both’.

Polydrug use

Almost one-in-five cases treated for problem alcohol use in 2012 also reported using at least one other drug. The most common drugs used in addition to alcohol were cannabis, cocaine, benzodiazepines and ecstasy.

‘The main concern with using more than one drug is that it increases complexity of cases and often leads to poorer outcomes for the patient’, explains Dr Lyons.

Regional trends

The incidence of new cases between 2008 and 2012 were highest in Waterford, Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim and Wexford. All of these counties had more than 224 cases per 100,000 of the 15-64 year old population. Incidence was lowest in Clare, Roscommon, Wicklow, Mayo and Meath, with each county reporting less than 83 cases per 100,000 of the 15-64 year old population.

‘Our records show different levels of reporting from different counties. In some regions all services are reporting all cases to the HRB, whereas there are inconsistent returns from others, which we can see in the West in particular. Incomplete reporting means that some counties figures understate the number of cases presenting for treatment. This could lead to inaccurate assessment in terms of need for services in a particular area’, concludes Dr Lyons.

The full report, Treated problem alcohol use in Ireland: figures from the National Drug Treatment Reporting System, is available at the link below.

ENDS

For more information contact:

Brian Cummins

Communications Officer, HRB

086 8037551

Notes to editors

Each record in our database represents a treatment episode (a case), not a person. This means an individual could be counted more than once if they had more than one treatment in a year.

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