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Long, Jean (2004) Occasional Paper 10: Twice as many are treated for problem alcohol use than for problem drug use. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 11, June 2004 , pp. 18-19.

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In April 2004, the DMRD, in collaboration with the South Eastern and Southern Health Boards, published an occasional paper entitled Treatment demand for problem alcohol use in the South Eastern and Southern Health Board areas, 2000-2002.1    It is the first publication that documents treatment demand for problem alcohol use in community settings and special residential services and complements the data published in the annual reports from the National Psychiatric Inpatient Reporting System 1. 

The number of treated cases reporting alcohol as their main problem substance is at least double that reporting all other drugs combined in the South Eastern and Southern Health Board areas (Table 1), suggesting that alcohol is the most common substance of abuse in Ireland.

Table 1   Numbers (%) reporting problem substance use that attended treatment in the South Eastern Health Board (SEHB) and Southern Health Board areas (SHB), 2000 to 2002 

Main problem substance
2000
2001
2002
 
Number (%)
 
SEHB
SHB
SEHB
SHB
SEHB
SHB
Alcohol
1010 (71.2)
719 (67.3)
1472 (76.7)
852 (61.0)
1498 (71.5)
1160 (64.2)
Drug (licit or illicit)
408 (28.8)
349 (32.7)
447 (23.3)
544 (39.0)
598 (28.5)
647 (35.8)
Total
1418
1068
1919
1396
2096
1807

 

 In both health board areas, 40 per cent of those reporting problem alcohol use had been treated previously, indicating that this is a chronic health problem. 

 In 2001 and 2002, one-fifth of treated cases in both health board areas reported use of drugs along with alcohol.  Cannabis was the most common drug used alongside alcohol.  Previously treated cases were more likely to use benzodiazepines with alcohol than were their newly treated counterparts.

 There was an increase in the proportion of new female cases seeking treatment for problem alcohol use in both areas, though the increase was higher in the Southern Health Board area.

 The rate of new cases (incidence) seeking treatment for problem alcohol use varied throughout the seven counties included in the study and merely reflected the level of service provision in the area and participation in the reporting system. 

 This analysis demonstrates that it is possible to collect reliable data on problem alcohol use through the National Drug Treatment Reporting System, and highlights that the exclusion of alcohol from reporting systems leads to an underestimation of problem substance use and the workload of addiction services. 

 The benefit of information on persons with problem alcohol use is that it will permit planners to rank problem alcohol use alongside other public health priorities in the population and to allocate appropriate resources to its management. 

 There is momentum gathering that responses to alcohol and illicit drug use should be integrated. This is an issue that is being discussed by the ten Regional Drugs Task Forces, which have been set up over the last year. These data identify a clear overlap between problem alcohol and drug use and point to the need for an integrated approach to the management of substance misuse.  

1. Long J, Jackson T, Kidd M, Kelleher T and Sinclair H (2004) Treatment demand for problem alcohol use in the South Eastern and Southern Health Board areas, 2000 to 2002. Occasional Paper 10. Dublin: Health Research Board. 

 

Item Type
Article
Issue Title
Issue 11, June 2004
Date
June 2004
Page Range
pp. 18-19
Publisher
Health Research Board
Volume
Issue 11, June 2004
EndNote
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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