Home > Alcohol treatment figures from the NDTRS, 2011‒2017.

O'Neill, Derek (2019) Alcohol treatment figures from the NDTRS, 2011‒2017. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 70, Summer 2019, pp. 14-15.

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The National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) is a national surveillance database on treatment for problem drug and alcohol use in Ireland. In March 2019, the NDTRS published its latest alcohol treatment figures, which cover the seven-year period 2011–2017. Over this period, 55,675 cases were treated for alcohol as a main problem.1


Key findings

The number of cases decreased to 7,350 in 2017 from a high of 8,876 in 2011. The proportion of new cases treated (those never before treated for problem alcohol use) decreased from 52.3% in 2011 to 47.6% in 2017 (see Table 1). The proportion of previously treated cases increased over the reporting period from 46.3% in 2011 to 49.7% in 2017.


It is important to note that each case in the NDTRS database relates to a treatment episode and not to a person. This means that the same person may be counted more than once in the same calendar year, if that person had more than one treatment episode in that year. 


Case characteristics

In 2017, as in previous years, over one-half (53%) of cases were treated in outpatient facilities (see Table 2). In addition, 4 in 10 cases (40.1%) were treated in residential settings, again similar to previous years.


The most recent data (i.e. 2017) show that the median age to start drinking for cases in treatment for problem alcohol use was 16 years, a trend that has remained steady over the seven-year reporting period. Over this period, the proportion of cases classified as dependent increased from 58.8% in 2011 to 72.0% in 2017. Dependent means that a person feels that they are unable to function without alcohol and the consumption of alcohol becomes an important – or sometimes the most important – factor in their life.2 A significant finding of the analysis was that in 2017 approximately two-thirds (66.8%) of new cases were classified as alcohol dependent. According to Dr Suzi Lyons, senior researcher at the Health Research Board, this means that ‘more people are presenting when the problem is already severe which makes treatment more complex and recovery more difficult’.


The median age of treated cases increased over the seven-year period from 38 years in 2011 to 41 years in 2017. The median age of new cases also continued to rise from 36 years in 2011 to 40 years in 2017.


In 2017, over one-half (52.1%) of cases were unemployed, while the proportion of cases recorded as homeless increased from 6.2% in 2011 to 8.4% in 2017. Also, in 2017, 1.6% of cases identified as Irish Traveller; this compares with 0.7% of the general population in the latest census (Census 2016).3

One in five cases treated for problem alcohol use reported problem use of more than one substance (polydrug use) in 2017. Cannabis (60.5%) was the most common additional drug reported in 2017, followed by cocaine (41.8%) and then benzodiazepines (22.9%). Cocaine increased from 28.8% in 2011 to 41.8% in 2017.


Case gender, 2017

The majority of cases in 2017 were male (64.9%), similar to previous years. The median age of treated cases for females (43 years) is higher than for males (40 years). This is further reflected in the median age for new cases entering treatment (38 years for males vs 43 years for females). Females also account for a higher proportion of cases in treatment aged 50 years or over (31.6%) than males aged 50 years or over (25.0%). Homelessness was more prevalent among males (10.1%) than females (5.4%).


In 2017, 74.2% of males were classified as alcohol dependent, as compared with 68.1% of females.

The proportion of cases with an additional other problem drug was higher for males (29.3%) than for females (16.6%). The four most common additional drugs (cannabis, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and opiates) for cases in alcohol treatment are the same for both males and females. There are, however, differences in the proportion reporting use of these drugs based on gender.

The findings of this bulletin can be used to inform research, policy, and practice in the area of alcohol addiction and treatment in Ireland.


1    Health Research Board (2019) National Drug Treatment Reporting System 2011–2017 alcohol data. Dublin: Health Research Board. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/30202

2    Health Service Executive (HSE) alcohol misuse definitions. For further information, visit: https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/a/alcohol-misuse/defining-a-drink-problem.html

3    Data on ethnicity is taken from Census 2016 from the Central Statistics Office (CSO). For further information, visit: https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-cp8iter/p8iter/p8e/

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Intervention Type
Treatment method
Issue Title
Issue 70, Summer 2019
September 2019
Page Range
pp. 14-15
Health Research Board
Issue 70, Summer 2019

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