Estimating Need for Alcohol Treatment in Ireland Using National Treatment Surveillance Data
International evidence indicates that about 10% of people with alcohol dependence will seek and commence treatment each year. Based upon Irish estimates of prevalence of dependence, a target of 690.0 treated cases per 100,000 population per annum is expected.
This study analyses routine national surveillance data on alcohol treatment to measure how treatment need is being met.
National treatment surveillance data on problem alcohol use collected by the National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) were analysed. The study included cases resident in Ireland, aged 18–64 years entering treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) between 2015 and 2019 (n = 44,079). Treatment rates were calculated per 100,000 of the population. Descriptive and exploratory statistics were used to describe characteristics of cases treated.
National rate of treated AUD was 270 cases per 100,000 annually, with a rate of treated alcohol dependence of 165/100,000. There was a fivefold difference between the lowest and highest rates (119 cases per 100,000 in Meath versus 633 in Waterford). Alcohol use patterns indicate high levels of alcohol consumption and prolonged use prior to treatment. The use of other drugs alongside alcohol was common.
Despite high rates of alcohol consumption and dependence, the rate of treatment entry nationally is sub-optimal, although there are wide geographic variations. There is a need to better understand the reasons for low treatment entry rates in Ireland for people with alcohol dependence. Monitoring and surveillance play a key role in measuring the successful efforts to reduce the harm of alcohol.