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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C

The average person in alcohol treatment in Ireland is 41, male and started drinking at 16

The Health Research Board has published new figures on alcohol use between 2009 and 2015.

alcohol figures Health Research Board Health Research Board

NEW FIGURES FROM the Health Research Board (HRB) has shown that 56,702 cases of problem alcohol use were recorded in Ireland between 2009 and 2015.

Although fewer people are presenting as new cases, the stage at which people seek help has changed, with the majority already dependent on alcohol by the time they receive any treatment.

Almost one in five cases of problem alcohol use also involved some other form of drugs, with cannabis by far the most common.

Dr Suzi Lyons, senior researcher at the HRB, said: “Alcohol remains the main problem drug that people seek treatment for in Ireland.

During 2015, 7,616 people sought treatment for alcohol as a main problem drug compared to 4,732 for opiates and 2,786 for cannabis.

She said that the main decrease was seen in the number of new cases presenting for treatment.

“The proportion of new cases decreased from 54,1% in 2009 to 46.7% in 2015,” she said.

This means fewer new cases are entering treatment. However, there has been an increase in the number of new cases who were classed as dependent on alcohol when they presented to treatment for the first time.

For the purposes of these figures, alcohol dependency is characterised by things such a strong desire to consume alcohol, impaired control over use, persistent drinking in spite of harmful consequences, and showing withdrawal reaction when alcohol use is discontinued.

When someone presents as already dependent, “this makes treatment and recovery more difficult”, Dr Lyons said.

There was not much of a radical change across cases between 2009 and 2015.

The median age when someone first started drinking stayed the same, at 16-years old. Similarly, two in three of those presenting for treatment were male.

There was a sharp increase, however, in the number of homeless people presenting with alcohol issues, accounting for 8% of all cases in 2015, rather than 4% in 2009.

There was also a slight shift in the illegal drugs being mixed with alcohol, as seen below.


Despite the median age of 16, half of all those in treatment for problem alcohol use commenced drinking alcohol at or before that age.

Read: Ireland is one step closer to lifting the Good Friday alcohol ban

Read: ‘Our children’s television viewing is bombarded with the thrills and spills of alcohol’

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