Surge in alcohol abuse reported


The number of people treated for alcohol abuse increased by almost 50 per cent in five years, according to figures just published.

The report, Treated Problem Alcohol use in Ireland 2005 to 2010, from the Health Research Board, says 42,333 cases presented with alcohol as the main problem substance during the five year period.

The number of cases per year increased from 5,525 cases in 2005 to 7,866 cases in 2010, an increase of 43 per cent. Alcohol accounted for more than half (52.7 per cent) of all cases treated for 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 also increased (by 60.7 per cent) from 2,29 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 treated 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 in employment fell from 39 per cent in 2005 to 24 per cent in 2010, 40 per cent of cases were drinking on a daily basis.

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

In the report, Hidden Realities - Children’s Exposure to Risks from Parental Drinking in Ireland, from an NGO working to reduce problem drinking in the north-west of the State called Alcohol Forum, 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 drinking this quantity once a month or more.

The report, by one of the State’s foremost experts on alcohol Dr Ann Hope, is based on examination of general population surveys, of agency records and interviews with family support services in the north west of the State.

Dr Hope said over half of all adults who had children reported regular hazardous drinking.

“This equate 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 25, married, in upper socio-economic groups and living in the Connaught/Ulster region.

Among the risks to children living in a household where there is regular, hazardous drinking are that they be left unsupervised, be yelled at or verbally abused, be physically abused and that they 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 publication of the report, Minister for Primary Care, Róisín Shorthall, described the below-cost selling of alcohol, as well as advertising that targeted young people as “irresponsible”.

“I think both retailers and the drinks industry need to consider how they have contributed to the problems we have with alcohol in this country.”