Sunday 22 October 2017

Rising number of U18s entering 'detox'

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Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

Younger teens and a number of children in the early stages of alcohol abuse are being put on special 'detox' programmes, new records reveal.

Psychiatric treatment and powerful opiate-replacement drugs are also being used to help teenagers control their drinking.

More than 240 young people and children are now being hospitalised annually due to alcohol and drugs related problems.

In total, 1,947 have required urgent hospital treatment since 2008.

The Cork and Kerry region has the highest rates of hospitalisation among those under 18. Tipperary, Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford are next on the list, followed by Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow.

Treatment ranges from four hour-long sessions with a 'trained interventionist', coupled with group education and 'strengthening families' therapy, for those at the lower end of the addiction spectrum.

Acupuncture, yoga, massage, and reflexology are among "complementary therapies" also used to help wean users off alcohol.

Those suffering more serious addiction are put through psychiatric treatment and in-patient "detoxification".

Meanwhile, new figures obtained by the Sunday Independent reveal the annual cost of alcohol dependency counsellors now stands at €6.9m - the equivalent of €113,000 a week.

Overall, the HSE spent €114m last year on addiction services for alcohol and drug abuse - the largest amount in the past eight years. In total, €819m has been spent over this period.

The cost of 'buzz blocking' drugs for alcoholics has also soared as Ireland's drink problem continues to grow.

In 2011, the health service spent €490,000 on four highly specialised medications used to confront chronic alcohol addiction. But by 2015, the cost had soared almost 40pc to €680,000.

One of the drugs, Disulfiram, is designed for what has been described as the "last chance saloon for very heavy drinkers". It was most famously used by George Best, who despite a liver transplant, died from chronic alcoholism.

It makes patients who carry on drinking violently ill - and triggers many of the effects of a "hangover" immediately a drink is consumed.

An implant administering the drug lasts for 12 months, giving a patient time to try and wean themselves off their addiction. Figures show some €568,600 has been allocated for the drug in the past five years.

Sunday Independent

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