Home > Alcohol treatment figures from the NDTRS, 2012–2018,

Condron, Ita (2020) Alcohol treatment figures from the NDTRS, 2012–2018,. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 72, Winter 2020, pp. 15-16.

The National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) is a national surveillance database on treatment for problem drug and alcohol use in Ireland. In November 2019, the NDTRS published its latest alcohol treatment figures, which cover the seven-year period 2012–2018. Over this period, 54,263 cases were treated for alcohol as a main problem.1


Key findings

The number of cases decreased to 7,464 in 2018 from a high of 8,609 in 2012. In 2018, there was a small increase in cases, from 7,350 in 2017. The proportion of new cases treated (those never before treated for problem alcohol use) decreased from 48.2% in 2012 to 43.3% in 2018 (see Table 1). The proportion of previously treated cases decreased slightly over the reporting period from 50.6% in 2012 to 49.6% in 2018.


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 2018, as in previous years, over one-half (54.8%) of cases were treated in outpatient facilities (see Table 2). In addition, almost 4 in 10 cases (37.4%) were treated in residential settings, again similar to previous years.


The 2018 data show that the median age to start drinking for cases in treatment for problem alcohol use was 15 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 55.7% in 2012 to 71% in 2018. 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 2018 approximately two-thirds (65.6%) of new cases were classified as alcohol-dependent.


The median age of treated cases increased over the seven-year period from 40 years in 2012 to 41 years in 2018. The median age of new cases also continued to rise from 37 years in 2012 to 39 years in 2018.


In 2018, over one-half (50.7%) of cases were unemployed, while the proportion of cases recorded as homeless increased from 5.6% in 2012 to 9.6% in 2018. Also, in 2018, 1.9% of cases identified as Irish Traveller.3


One in five cases treated for problem alcohol use (21.5%) reported problem use of more than one substance (polydrug use) in 2018. Cannabis (58.6%) was the most common additional drug reported in 2018, followed by cocaine (48.2%) and then benzodiazepines (23.4%). Cocaine increased from 28.1% in 2012 to 48.2% in 2018.


Case gender, 2018

The majority of cases in 2018 were male (64.5%), 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 (males 39 years vs females 42 years). Females also account for a higher proportion of cases in treatment aged 50 years or over (30.6%) than males aged 50 years or over (25.1%). Homelessness was more prevalent among males (11.6%) than females (5.8%).


In 2018, 73.4% of males were classified as alcohol-dependent, as compared with 66.8% of females.


The proportion of cases with an additional other problem drug was higher for males (24.1%) than for females (16.7%). The four most common additional drugs (cannabis, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and opioids) 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.



Table 1: Number of cases with alcohol as a main problem, by treatment status, NDTRS 2012–2018


Table 2: Number of cases in treatment with alcohol as a main problem, by type of service provider, NDTRS 2012–2018

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Report
Drug Type
Issue Title
Issue 72, Winter 2020
March 2020
Page Range
pp. 15-16
Health Research Board
Issue 72, Winter 2020

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