Local TD Kathleen Funchion is calling on the government to address alcohol dependency and alcohol-related harm in response to the latest HRB National Drug Treatment Reporting System bulletin.
In this bulletin, trends in treated problem alcohol use are described for the seven-year period from 2014 to 2020.
The data was taken from the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS), the national surveillance system that records and reports on cases of drug and alcohol treatment in Ireland.
In Community Healthcare Organisation 5 (CHO5), an area that represents South Tipperary, Carlow/Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford, there were more recorded service users altogether than many other CHOs.
The number of alcohol cases treated in Kilkenny was fairly stable year-on-year - 2014 (170 cases), 2015 (140), 2016 (137), 2017 (142), 2018 (173), 2019 (134).
In 2020, there was an overall drop in the number of cases entering drug treatment which in part was the result of temporary service closures and measures introduced to comply with Covid-19 restrictions.
Deputy Funchion wants more to be done to address these figures.
“Carlow and Kilkenny have a serious issue with alcohol dependency and problem drinking. CHO5 consistently has the highest number of cases treated for problem alcohol use since 2014 up to 2020,” she stated.
“The number of children living with people seeking alcohol treatment, particularly women, is really concerning.
“We know that large numbers of people with alcohol dependency don’t seek help.”
Another trend picked up by the bulletin related to drug use in conjunction with alcohol, with the number of users taking cocaine with alcohol in particular rising.
“We know from the HRB report that the relationship between alcohol and cocaine has increased in recent years,” continues Deputy Funchion.
“It is time to start addressing this and warning people of the danger of polydrug use.”
The median age of male cases that entered treatment was 40 years. Among new cases specifically, the median age entering treatment was 38 years.
In 2020, the most common preferred types of alcohol among male cases were beer (40.2%) and spirits (36.7%).
The median age of female cases that entered treatment was 43 years. Among new female cases specifically, the median age entering treatment was 41 years.
In 2020, the preferred types of alcohol among female cases were spirits (35.2%) and wine (34.6%).
Among the majority who had consumed alcohol in the month prior to treatment, the median number of standard drinks consumed on a typical drinking day was 20 (range 8-40) for males.
The risk of harm from alcohol use increases in line with the amount consumed. Low risk drinking guidelines for males is up to 17 standard drinks in a week with drinks spaced out over the week, with two to three alcohol free days per week.
Among those previously treated for alcohol, where alcohol detox history was known, 73.8% of male cases had previously received an alcohol detox.
Among the majority of cases who had consumed alcohol in the month prior to treatment, the median number of standard drinks consumed on a typical drinking day was 16 (range 6-30) for females.
The risk of harm from alcohol use increases in line with the amount consumed.
The low-risk drinking guidelines for females is up to 11 standard drinks in a week with drinks spaced out over the week, with two to three alcohol free days per week.
Among those previously treated for alcohol, where alcohol detox history was known, 70.2% of female cases had previously received an alcohol detox.
In 2020, 23.1% of cases treated for problem alcohol use reported problem use of more than one substance (polydrug use).
In 2020, cannabis (54.9%) was the most common additional drug reported by cases with polydrug use, followed by cocaine (54.1%) and benzodiazepines (24.6%).
The proportion of cases reporting cannabis decreased from 63.2% in 2014 to 54.9% in 2020.
Problem use of cocaine increased from 28.2% in 2014 to 54.1% in 2020.
The proportion of cases treated for benzodiazepines decreased from 27.9% in 2014 to 21.8% in 2019, then increased to 24.6% in 2020.
In 2020, 7 (0.5%) cases reported pregabalin (Lyrica) as a problem in addition to alcohol, a decrease from 15 (1.0%) cases in 2019.
In 2020, three in every five (60.2%) cases were treated in outpatient facilities.
The proportion of cases treated in residential settings decreased from 36.1% in 2014 to 28.8% in 2020.
The reduction in residential settings can in part be attributed to temporary closures and measures introduced to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.
The proportion of cases treated in low threshold services was 8.0%, while the proportion of cases treated in prison was 3.0% in 2020.
General practitioners do not currently report alcohol treatment figures to the NDTRS.
It must be noted that not all alcohol treatment services were participating in the NDTRS during the period under review.
Therefore, it may be assumed that the data presented under-estimates the true extent of treated alcohol use in Ireland and locally in Kilkenny.
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