Shocking figures reveal true cost of alcohol and drug abuse

Harmful drinking a growing problem says expert

Leonie McKiernan

Reporter:

Leonie McKiernan

Harmful drinking a growing problem says expert

105 people from Co Leitrim were assessed or treated for problem alcohol or drug use in 2014 according to figures revealed in a special presentation by the North West Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force.
Sean O'Connor, Co-ordinator with the Task Force, told the Leitrim Joint Policing Committee that the rate of alcohol consumption in Ireland is high and harmful drinking patterns are all too common, especially amongst younger drinkers.
The North West Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force' primary role is to: “to significantly reduce the harm caused to individuals and society by the misuse of drug through concerted focus on supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research."
Addressing the JPC, Mr O'Connor said the vast majority of referrals for treatment are for those with alcohol problems. In 2014 alcohol accounted for 86% of referrals in the North West with the remainder seeking assistance for drug abuse.
The figures also showed that while the majority of those in treatment in the North West are male (67%) there is a growing number of women who are also presenting with alcohol abuse problems.


The age breakdown of those seeking help is also striking with more than half of those presenting for help in 2014 in the region aged 39 and younger.
Approximately 6% of the total referred for support in 2014 under the National Drug Treatment Report System for the North West, are 19 or younger.
This trend explained Mr O'Connor is also being replicated in our health services with a growing number of people in their early 20s now presenting with health issues arising from alcohol abuse.
In 2014, he said, the average alcohol consumption per adult in Ireland was 11 litres. This equates to drinking 116 bottles of wine or 445 pints of beer.
Mr O'Connor explained that a National Alcohol Diary Survey in 2013 showed that 2.48m people in Ireland drank and of this 1.34m or 54% drank harmfully.
“Harmful drinking patterns are the norm in Ireland,” he observed, “with at least 75% of all alcohol consumed as a part of a binge drinking session”.
Statistics for alcohol related hospitalisations showed that the number of hospital discharges totally attributable to alcohol rose by 82% between 1995 and 2013.
As a country we are starting to see a dramatic rise in the number of people presenting with alcoholic liver disease. In an 18 year period there has been a threefold increase in people requiring treatment for this.
Mr O'Connor noted the huge financial cost attributed to this with all alcohol related discharges in 2012 coming in at €1.5bn or 11% of all public health expenditure. This, he said, excluded the costs associated with emergency department cases, GP visits, psychiatric admissions and alcohol treatment services.
Alcohol also accounted for a growing number of deaths. In 2013 there were 1,055 alcohol related deaths, an average of 3 per day. Shockingly, 73% of these were for people aged less than 65 and those under 35 were most likely to die as a result of alcohol poisoning or trauma caused by drinking.