Figures released by the Health Research Board (HRB) show that cannabis and cocaine are the most common additional drugs used by people seeking treatment for alcohol dependency. Some 7350 cases of alcohol dependency were treated in Ireland in 2017, down slightly from 7643 cases in 2016. Despite the decrease in the number of alcohol dependency cases being treated, there has been an increase in their severity, says Dr Suzi Lyons, Senior Researcher at the HRB.

Cannabis was the most common additional drug used. The number of cases reported declined steadily from 68% in 2011 to 58% in 2016, but increased slightly to 61% in 2017. Cocaine was the second most common additional drug recorded. This has increased from 29% in 2011 to 42% in 2017, and was more common among males (44%) than females (34%). Benzodiazepines were the third most common additional drug reported (23%). The proportion reporting benzodiazepines as an additional problem increased from 22% in 2011 to 29% in 2016, and then decreased to 23% in 2017. One in five cases involved polydrug use, which means that the person was being treated for problem use of more than one drug.

Responding to the figures, Dr Darrin Morrissey, Chief Executive at the HRB, said alcohol remains the main problem drug that people enter treatment for in Ireland. He noted that recovery is harder for people trying to give up more than one drug, stating: “That, in conjunction with the very high percentages of cases that are alcohol dependent, point to the chronic nature of addiction.”

Alcohol dependency is increasing

The proportion of previously treated cases who were alcohol dependent increased from 68% in 2011 to 79% in 2017: 74% were male and 68% female.

Dr Lyons said there has been an increasing trend in the percentage of new cases who are already dependent on alcohol when they present to treatment for the first time, up from 50% in 2011 to 68% in 2017. This means that more people are presenting when the problem is already severe, which makes treatment more complex and recovery more difficult.

Lyons added that the annual reduction in cases being treated in 2017 could be the result of a decrease in the availability of services or a real decrease in numbers seeking treatment. For information on any of AlphaBiolabs’ alcohol-testing or drug testing solutions please call 0140 29466 or email us at