Home > National Drug Treatment Reporting System 2014 – 2020 drug treatment data.

Kelleher, Cathy ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1754-0244, Carew, Anne Marie ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8026-7228 and Lyons, Suzi ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4635-6673 (2021) National Drug Treatment Reporting System 2014 – 2020 drug treatment data. Dublin: Health Research Board. HRB Statlink series 6.

PDF (NDTRS 2014 – 2020 drug treatment data) - Published Version
PDF (Opioid Substitution Treatment (OST) patterns 2009-2020)
PDF (Press release: HRB reports rise in cocaine and crack cocaine treatment.)

The latest figures from the Health Research Board (HRB) show continued growth in the number of cases* seeking treatment for problem cocaine use, including crack cocaine use, despite an overall drop in the numbers entering drug treatment**.

Overall findings on drug treatment in 2020 

In 2020, a total of 9,702 cases were treated for problem drug use, a 9% decrease from 10,664 in 2019. 

Main problem drug (excluding alcohol)

  • Opioids (mainly heroin) were the most reported problem drug, accounting for 37% of cases treated in 2020, a decrease from 50% of cases in 2014.
  • Cocaine was the second most common problem drug reported, accounting for 27% of cases treated in 2020, an increase from 9% of cases in 2014.
  • Cannabis was the third most common main drug reported, accounting for 22% of cases treated in 2020, a decrease from 28% of cases in 2014.
  • Benzodiazepines were the fourth most common main problem drug, accounting for approximately 10% of cases each year from 2014, with a slight increase to 11.3% in 2020. 

Socio-demographic characteristics (all drugs) 

  • The median age of cases increased from 29 years in 2014 to 31 years in 2020.
  • Men accounted for approximately 3-in-4 drug treatment cases over the seven-year reporting period.
  • The number of cases under 18 years of age decreased from 822 cases in 2019 to 674 cases in 2020.
  • The majority of cases over the reporting period were unemployed. However, the overall rate of unemployment decreased over the seven-year reporting period, while the number of cases in paid employment doubled from 816 cases in 2014 to 1,574 cases in 2020.
  • The number of cases recorded as homeless decreased slightly from 2019 (1,173 cases) to 2020 (1,023 cases). However, there was a general upward trend in the number of homeless cases over the seven-year reporting period.
  • The number of cases who reported Irish Traveller as their ethnicity remained stable, accounting for approximately 3% of cases each year from 2014 to 2020.

Polydrug use (problem use of more than one drug)

  • There were fluctuations in the proportion of cases using more than one drug over the seven-year reporting period. However, treatment for polydrug use has been increasing over the past three years, from 53% in 2018 to 59% in 2020.
  • For the first time in the seven-year reporting period, cannabis surpassed alcohol as the most common additional drug reported by cases with polydrug use. This was followed by cocaine, benzodiazepines, and then alcohol.
  • MDMA (ecstasy) as the main problem drug accounted for a small number of cases (31 cases) in 2020. However, significantly more cases reported MDMA as an additional problem drug (424 cases).

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

** In 2020 we saw an overall drop in the number of cases entering drug treatment for problem use of any drug, which is the result of temporary service closures and measures introduced to comply with Covid-19 restrictions. This does not necessarily indicate a real decline in demand for treatment. 

Item Type
Publication Type
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco), Cannabis, CNS depressants / Sedatives, CNS stimulants, Cocaine, Inhalents and solvents, Opioid, New psychoactive substance, Prescription/Over the counter
Intervention Type
Drug therapy, Treatment method, Psychosocial treatment method
20 July 2021
Identification #
HRB Statlink series 6
27 p.
Health Research Board
Place of Publication
ISSN 2737-7652

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