Fewer drinkers admitted to hospital
The number of people admitted to hospital for alcohol dependency has dropped over recent years, doctors have revealed.
Data from St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin showed that 14,239 patients were treated in 2011 - a drop of 16% from the year before.
Professor Aiden McCormick said: "The surprising thing is that this reduction has not happened sooner."
The decline follows an earlier reduction in emergency admissions in 2008. But it also comes on the back of a 335% increase in admissions of patients with alcoholic liver disease between 1995 and 2010.
Despite the decline in patients with alcohol dependency issues, doctors from the Mater Hospital in the capital revealed a shortage in detox services available.
Their study found that 80% of doctors cannot access out-patient detox services for their patients and only 5% were able to refer patients directly to psychological services.
They said the data suggested there has been an over-reliance on voluntary organisations, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, for support to patients.
Dr Audrey Dillon, research registrar at the Mater Hospital's liver unit, said the difficulty in accessing psychological support contravenes recommendations from the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and other international groups.
"These services are necessary and would be considered the gold standard approach to the management of alcohol dependence," Dr Dillon said.
"The overall cost implications of providing early access to the psychological therapy needed to modify behaviour would be outweighed by lower rates of alcohol-related harm, psychiatric problems, alcohol-related cancers and liver disease, and would ultimately lead to reduced alcohol-related health service costs."
The research from St Vincent's and the Mater will be presented today at the winter meeting of the Irish Society of Gastroenterology in Kerry.