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Research shows 21 people a day seek treatment for problematic alcohol use

Experts say the figure may be heavily underreported.

Image: Shutterstock

TWENTY-ONE PEOPLE in Ireland sought treatment for problematic alcohol use every day between 2010 and 2016, according to new research.

Figures from the National Drug Treatment Reporting System showed that 53,763 cases of problem alcohol use in Ireland were treated over the seven-year period.

While the statistics show that the number of cases plateaued over the last four years, alcohol remains Ireland’s main problem drug.

The updated figures confirmed that 7,643 cases of problem alcohol use were treated in 2016, 48.1% of which were new cases, a statistic that is similar to previous years.

Nearly two-thirds (63.9%) of those treated in 2016 were men, while over half (53.8%) were unemployed.

Alcohol treatment Ireland Alcohol treatment in Ireland 2010 - 2016 Source: Health Research Board

Meanwhile, almost one-fifth of those treated also reported to have engaged in so-called polydrug use, whereby multiple drugs – including alcohol – are taken together.

Cannabis (57.7%) was the most common additional drug used with alcohol, followed by cocaine (35.4%) and benzodiazepines (17.6%).

Underestimation

The figures were gathered via a new web-based data collection tool, which the Health Research Board say has “significantly” changed the way the NDTRS works.

It said that the new system had shown an impact on the number of cases reported for 2016, but added that while the amount of cases reported was similar to 2015, the figures could still be an underestimation of actual numbers.

Eunan McKinney of Alcohol Action Ireland echoed the suggestion that the figures reported in the statistics were below the actual number of problem drinkers in Ireland.

He told TheJournal.ie that the Health Research Board has previously put the number of people dependent on alcohol in Ireland at between 150,000 and 200,000 people.

“International studies suggest that only 10% of dependent people at any one time are likely to seek intervention or treatment,” McKinney said.

“[This] would indicate that perhaps somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 may seek support in Ireland annually.”

He added that the figures suggested there was a “significant shortfall” in the capacity of services to manage the demand for treatment, which was potentially five times greater than was suggested.

Our reporter Sean Murray went to The Rutland Centre to ask experts how addiction has changed in Ireland. Check back with us at midnight to see his report about how alcohol abuse has become more multifaceted in recent years.

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