Home > Drug treatment figures from the NDTRS, 2009‒2015.

Lyons, Suzi (2017) Drug treatment figures from the NDTRS, 2009‒2015. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 62, Summer 2017, pp. 17-18.

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The National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) has published its latest figures on treated problem drug use (excluding alcohol).1 In the seven-year period 2009‒2015, 61,439 cases were treated for problem drug use (excluding alcohol). The number of cases rose from 7479 in 2009 to 9892 in 2015. For the first time data from treatment in prison is included in annual figures. Of note, the data now include those cases with no fixed abode, no known address, or an address outside Ireland, in all tables, which were excluded from previous publications. Therefore, the data in this bulletin supersede all previously published data from NDTRS trend papers and web updates. 

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The majority of cases were treated in outpatient facilities (64.4%) over the period, similar to previous years (Table 1). The proportion of cases treated in prison decreased slightly from 10.8% to 8.4% over the reporting period. The NDTRS has been collecting information on treatment in prison since 2008, mainly from in-reach services (voluntary organisations providing counselling). However, since 2014, the Irish Prison Service’s addiction services in Mountjoy Prison have participated in the NDTRS, followed by the women’s prison, Dóchas, in 2015. In 2015, the proportion of cases treated in residential facilities increased for the first time in the period, from 14% in 2009 to 18% in 2015.


* Includes any service where the client stays overnight, e.g. inpatient detoxification, therapeutic communities, respite and step-down 


The proportion of new cases decreased over the period from 45.9% in 2009 to 37.8% in 2015, with a corresponding increase in the number of previously treated cases (Table 2). The increase in the number of previously treated cases is an indicator of the chronic, relapsing nature of addiction.



In 2015, half of those treated were aged 30 years. Over the reporting period, the median age of all cases treated increased from 28 years in 2009 to 30 years in 2015. There were differences depending on whether the case was new (25 years) or previously treated (32 years). In 2015, most of those treated were male (72.2%) similar to previous years. The proportion of cases who were homeless increased from 5.6% in 2009 to 9.2% in 2015.


For the first time, aggregated data on the numbers of cases from the Traveller community are presented in these routine statistics. The proportion of cases who identified as Travellers increased from 1.9% in 2009 to 2.9% in 2015. The proportion of Travellers in the general population is 0.7% (2016 Census).2 In 2015, nearly two-thirds of all cases (64.4%) were unemployed. Unemployment rates in this group did not drop below 60% for all of the years reported. Unemployment rates were higher among previously treated cases.


Opiates (mainly heroin) continued to be the most commonly reported drug over the reporting period. While the number of cases treated for problem opiate use remained stable over the period, the proportion of cases treated decreased from 60.6% in 2009 to 47.8% in 2015. Cannabis was the second most common drug reported among those treated. The number of cases reporting problem cannabis use increased by 72%, from 1616 in 2009 to 2786 in 2015. Cocaine remained the third most common drug reported and in 2015, 10.4% of cases reported problem cocaine use, the highest proportion reported since 2010.


Another significant finding was the increasing proportion of cases reporting benzodiazepines as a main problem drug, which rose by 185% from 306 cases (4.1%) in 2009 to 873 cases (8.8%) in 2015. In addition, the number of cases treated for Z-drugs has increased significantly from 9 in 2009 to 154 in 2015.

For the first time, the bulletin reports on treated problem use of novel psychoactive substances (NPS). The number of cases treated for NPS use peaked in 2010, at 2.5% of all cases treated, and dropped to 0.4% of all cases treated in 2012. Since then, it has increased slightly to represent 0.9% of all cases treated in 2015.


The majority of cases reported problem polydrug use (63.5%) over the period; however, the proportion has decreased from 68.4% in 2009 to 60.9% in 2015. Up to 2013, alcohol was the most common additional drug reported. Since 2014, benzodiazepines have become the most common additional drug reported.

The proportion of all cases treated who reported ever injecting remained relatively stable over the reporting period at around one-third of all cases. The proportion of new cases reporting ever injecting has decreased from 19.7% in 2009 to 14.5% in 2015.


1    Health Research Board (2017) Drug treatment in Ireland NDTRS 2009‒2015. Dublin: Health Research Board. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/27023

3    Data on ethnicity is taken from the 2016 Census from the CSO. For more information, see http://cso.ie/en/media/csoie/newsevents/documents/pressreleases/2017/prCensussummarypart1.pdf

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Treatment method
Issue Title
Issue 62, Summer 2017
August 2017
Page Range
pp. 17-18
Health Research Board
Issue 62, Summer 2017

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