Cases of treatment for alcohol abuse up 42% since 2005


THE NUMBER of instances of treatment for alcohol abuse has risen by more than 40 per cent in six years.

A total of 42,333 cases with alcohol as a main problem substance presented to drug treatment services from 2005 to 2010, according to a Health Research Board report.

The rise in cases may be as a result of an increase in reporting to the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS), as well as an increase in problem alcohol use in the population.

The number of cases per year rose from 5,525 in 2005 to 7,866 in 2010, an increase of 42.4 per cent. Alcohol accounted for more than half of cases (52.7 per cent) treated for all problem substance use in the period.

The number of new cases of people seeking treatment increased by 29.4 per cent, from 3,228 in 2005 to 4,178 in 2010. The number of previously treated cases rose (by 60.7 per cent) from 2,290 in 2005 to 3,583 in 2010.

Half of all cases treated were aged 39 years or younger, and there was a 145 per cent increase in new cases aged under 18, from 109 cases in 2005 to 267 cases in 2010. Half of all cases had started drinking alcohol by the time they were 16, and 50 per cent of new cases had used alcohol for 19 years or more before seeking treatment.

The proportion of all cases who were in employment fell from 39 per cent in 2005 to 24 per cent in 2010. Meanwhile 40 per cent of cases drank on a daily basis.

Each record in the NDTRS database relates to a treatment episode (a case) and not a person. A person could be counted more than once if receiving multiple treatments.

The figures are contained in a report, Treated Problem Alcohol Use in Ireland, 2005 to 2010, from the Health Research Board.

A separate report, also published yesterday, finds more than half a million children are living with adults who engage regularly in hazardous drinking.

In this report, entitled Hidden Realities – Children’s Exposure to Risks from Parental Drinking in Ireland, published by Alcohol Forum, a group working to reduce problem drinking in the north-west, hazardous drinking is defined as drinking four or more pints of beer, a bottle of wine or seven spirits in one sitting. Regular hazardous drinking is defined as consuming this quantity once a month or more.

The Treated Problem Alcohol Use report, by leading alcohol expert Dr Ann Hope, is based on examination of general population surveys, agency records and interviews with family support services in the north-west.

Dr Hope said more than half of all adults who had children reported regular hazardous drinking. “This equates to 587,000 children – over half of whom are under 15 years of age – being exposed to risk from parental hazardous drinking.

“The prevalence of family problems as a result of someone else’s drinking was reported by 14 per cent of respondents. This translates to approximately 449,000 families negatively affected by alcohol.”

Drinking at home was reported more often by those over the age of 25, married, in upper socio-economic groups and living in the Connacht/Ulster region.

Among the risks to children living in a household where there was regular, hazardous drinking were that they would be left unsupervised, be yelled at or verbally abused, be physically abused and/or be witness to rows and/or domestic violence.

Dr Hope said only the most severe child-welfare and neglect cases resulting from alcohol misuse tended to come to the attention of social services. “However, the severe cases develop out of the larger pool of families with less notable risky behaviours, but where children are also suffering.”

Speaking at the report’s publication, Minister of State for Primary Care Róisín Shortall described below-cost selling of alcohol, as well as advertising targeting young people, as “irresponsible”.