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Home > Trends in treated problem alcohol use, 2004–2006.

Long, Jean (2008) Trends in treated problem alcohol use, 2004–2006. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 25, Spring 2008 , p. 11.

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On 18 March 2008, the Health Research Board published preliminary trends in treated problem alcohol use based on data reported to the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS).1 A total of 16,020 cases were treated for problem alcohol use in Ireland between 2004 and 2006. It is important to note that the reporting system collects data on episodes of treatment, rather that the number of individual people treated each year. This means that individuals may appear more than once if they attend more than one treatment service in a year, and may reappear in subsequent years.

Of the cases treated for problem alcohol use between 2004 and 2006, 59% entered treatment for the first time. There was a 21% increase in the number of new cases during the reporting period. The increase in numbers could be explained by an increase in problematic alcohol use in the population, an increase in the number of service providers reporting treated cases to the NDTRS, or a combination of these two factors.
Between 5,000 and 5,500 cases were treated each year and reported to the monitoring system. It is essential to point out that the collection of treatment figures for alcohol is still in the initial stages and that not all alcohol treatment services provided information for the three-year period under review. This means that the figures presented are an underestimate of the true extent of treated alcohol use in Ireland and reflect the degree of participation in the reporting system by treatment services, rather than the actual levels of treatment required or, indeed, provided in any one region. For example, participation by services in the East (Wicklow, Kildare and Dublin) and the West (Galway, Mayo and Roscommon) is still incomplete.
Of note, one in five new cases treated for alcohol as a main problem substance reported a problem with one or more other drugs. Cannabis (16%), cocaine (7%), ecstasy (7%) and amphetamines (2%) were the four most common additional problem drugs reported. The number of new cases receiving treatment for problem use of both alcohol and cocaine increased by 40% in the three-year period, although the overall number of such cases is still low. Research has shown that the use of these two drugs together results in the formation of cocaethylene, which potentiate the cardiotoxic effects of cocaine alone. Taking cocaine and alcohol together can also increase the likelihood of violent thoughts, which can in turn lead to violent behaviour.
Of the alcohol cases treated for the first time, 68% were men; one-third were unemployed; and 2.5% were homeless. New cases treated for problem alcohol use combined with one or more other problem drugs were more likely to be men, under 18 years of age, homeless and unemployed than those treated for problem alcohol use only.
In line with the growing number of people of other nationalities living in Ireland, there was an increase in the number of non-nationals treated for problem alcohol use during the reporting period.
The NDTRS records the treatment intervention(s) provided when the client is first admitted to a treatment service. Counselling was the most common initial treatment intervention in 2006 and was recorded for over three-quarters (77%) of all treated cases. This was followed by alcohol detoxification, which was provided to 28% of cases, and education awareness programmes provided to 25% of cases. Approximately one in five treated cases received medication-free therapy (23%), family therapy (21%) or brief intervention (20%).
1. Fanagan S, Reynolds S, Mongan D and Long J (2008) Trends in treated problem alcohol use in Ireland, 2004 to 2006. Trends Series 1. Dublin: HRB. Available at
Item Type
Issue Title
Issue 25, Spring 2008
Page Range
p. 11
Health Research Board
Issue 25, Spring 2008
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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