Irish alcoholics are travelling to UK for €1,000 'pellet' to help beat addiction
Irish people with serious alcohol problems are travelling to the UK to be fitted with a costly "drink pellet", which blocks the "buzz factor" they get from alcohol.
The pellets are inserted into their lower abdomen and can cost more than €1,000 - although the effect wears off after just three months.
However, the procedure can provide a much-needed breathing space that will allow an alcoholic undergo various other treatments.
The Irish Independent has now learned the revolutionary pellets will be on sale in Ireland for the first time next month.
The treatment works by releasing a controlled amount of the drug Naltrexone into the bloodstream, suppressing the 'high' heavy drinkers get from alcohol. The HSE has also confirmed it is considering introducing the treatment on the public health system.
Brendan Quinn, commercial director of the the Abstinence Centre in London, said typical patients from Ireland included CEOs and young professionals.
"We have quite a lot of people travelling over from Ireland," he said. "But this treatment should be seen as a spoke in the wheel - and not viewed as a cure," he warned.
He said the implant had a success rate of between 30pc and 40pc in treating alcohol addiction.
"For many people, it's an affordable intervention," he told the Irish Independent.
"While it's a very good product, it should not be viewed as a magic cure ... Ongoing psychological support is crucial, as well as follow-up consultations.
"It's really an adjunct to other treatments.
"Much like Nicorette patches are not for everybody, we must also be sure of a patient's suitability before inserting a pellet."
A three-month implant at his clinic costs £850 (€1,211).
He said patients can 'top up' with a new pellet every three months if required, up to a maximum of 18 months.
The treatment is widely available privately in the UK, America, Russia and Australia.
Dr Hugh Gallagher, from the One Step Clinic in the Healthy Living Centre in DCU, is to provide the pellets to private patients from next month.
"The people seeking this procedure have a high dependency on alcohol so it's a very good aid to treating addiction.
"Patients will also be assessed for any physical and mental problems they may have from their years of heavy drinking.
"Blood tests will also be carried out. Ideally, patients will get four implants every three months, but that will vary depending on the patient."
A HSE spokeswoman confirmed initial contact had been made by a potential service provider.