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Nearly 55,000 cases of problem alcohol use treated in Ireland over seven years

The figures show the number of cases treated between 2012 and 2018 across the country.

Bottles of alcohol.
Bottles of alcohol.
Image: Shutterstock/Marcio Jose Bastos Silva

THERE WERE 54,263 cases of problem alcohol use treated in Ireland between 2012 and 2018, according to new figures from the Health Research Board (HRB). 

Research on alcohol treatment in Ireland between 2012 and 2018 showed that many people who received treatment for alcohol as a main drug were drinking more in a typical day than HSE low-risk guidelines recommend in a week.

Around 100 more cases were treated between 2017 and 2018 in Ireland. Each case equals a treatment episode and not a person, meaning the same person could account for several cases in any year. 

Dr Darrin Morrissey, chief executive of the Health Research Board said that one in five cases of people seeking alcohol treatment also report problem use of drugs.

“Cocaine continues to increase as an additional drug being used by both men and women who present for alcohol treatment,” said Morrissey in a statement. 

“This is of concern because mixing alcohol and cocaine can lead to greater physical harm, more severe side-effects and increased impairment.”

The HSE low-risk guidelines for drinking recommend that women drink no more than 11 standard drinks in a week while men should drink no more than 17 standard drinks.

One standard drink is equal to a half pint of beer, a small glass of wine or a pub measure (35 ml) of spirits). It’s recommended to space out these drinks throughout the week and leave two or three days alcohol free each week.  

Just over half of all cases of people treated for problem alcohol use were unemployed. The number of cases that were homeless increased from 0.5% to 10% of all cases. Almost seven in 10 cases treated were already alcohol dependent.

Nearly two-thirds of those treated were male. The highest number of cases in any given year during this seven-year period was 2012 when 8,609 people were treated for problem alcohol use. 

Polydrug use (problem use of more than one drug) was a factor in just over one-fifth of cases treated for problem use. Cannabis was the most common additional drug recorded. 

The number of cases treated increased in Dublin went from 1,629 in 2012 to 1,907 in 2018. Case numbers more than halved during this same period in Longford, from 110 in 2012 to 40 in 2018.

Similarly, Cavan saw a decrease in cases from 203 in 2012 to 78 last year.   

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