Accessing timely, effective treatment for problem alcohol use is crucial for recovery

Accessing timely, effective treatment for problem alcohol use is crucial for recovery, but very many barriers to accessing treatment too often stand in the way of getting help.

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national independent advocate for reducing alcohol harm, will today (Wednesday 8th June) convene a panel of experts to discuss accessing alcohol treatment in Ireland with contributions from those with lived experience and service providers.

Dr Sheila Gilheany, CEO Alcohol Action Ireland noted that:

“The drinking patterns of 14.8% of the population in Ireland – 578,000 people, show evidence of an alcohol use disorder, and 90,000 of these would have a severe problem. However, alcohol treatment data for 2020 shows there were only 3319 new presentations gaining access to alcohol treatment services, so there is a significant gap between treatment needs and provision. Clearly, given the scale of the problem, alcohol treatment is not getting the resources required for a problem that causes so much harm not only to the individual, but to families and communities.”


Amy Roche, CEO, Finglas Addiction Support Team said:

“In order to effectively treat people for problem alcohol use, we need more appropriate funding supports and resources to build integrated care pathways to meet the often complex needs of the people presenting and their families. Treatment and recovery is not a linear model, nor is any problem Alcohol use or Alcohol use disorder – no one size fits all and people are seeking treatment and Recovery in many ways. We need to respond, and in line with Sláintecare’s commitment we need to develop initiatives that will offer the right care, in the right place at the right time.”

Emma, who has accessed services at Coolmine TC commented:

“When a person presents for addiction treatment there will almost always be mental health issues (whether diagnosed or not) in the mix. There are so many moving parts, so many complex needs that all need to be met, in order for a person to embark on a journey of recovery. If a holistic approach is taken, if all these issues are faced head-on and addressed as an integral part of the person’s care plan, it will much improve the chances of a successful recovery.”

Paddy Creedon, Board member of Alcohol Action Ireland and Recovery Advocate said:

” The challenge for those of us who are committed to recovery from alcohol dependency is to eliminate forever the shame and stigma that are barriers to the 90,000 people in Ireland who desperately need recovery  – the challenge for the service providers and policy makers is to provide timely and fully funded services to those who want recovery”

Professor Jo-Hanna Ivers, Assistant Professor in Addiction, School of Medicine, Trinity College, working with Ballyfermot Star CLG and supported by the Tallaght and Ballyfermot Taskforces, published a key report – Supporting Women to Access Appropriate Treatment. She said:

“While both men and women who use drugs and alcohol experience stigma, the experience is gendered due to drug and alcohol dependence challenging social and cultural expectations of women as nurturers, mothers, daughters, sisters, and caregivers. Women with a drug or alcohol dependence disorder report significantly higher levels of stigma than men. Fear of stigmatising experiences is one of the most reported factors hindering women from accessing substance use treatment.”


The research now is clear that everyone accessing treatment services has experienced significant trauma at some point in their lives. Such issues include domestic violence, abuse, parental problem substance use, poverty and bereavement/ loss.   Services must be equipped to respond to these needs in a timely and holistic manner. If they can’t, people will not be able to recover fully and the likelihood of relapse is higher.

Alcohol Action advocates that a national strategy should set out the types of interventions that constitute best practice and develop national standards against which services can be inspected – like all other residential treatment services in Ireland. Person-centred trauma-informed services would ensure that people’s rights are at the centre of policies and practices and it is vital that services are evaluated and monitored in Ireland.