Guest blog: Niamh Foley, community alcohol detox broker, Community Response
Ireland has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption per-capita in The EU. The Health Research Board reported over 7,400 cases treated for problematic alcohol use in Ireland in 2022, a 35% increase from 2021 (Condron, Lyons, Carew, 2022).
The Irish Journal of Medical Science published a study in 2021 suggesting that only 2-3% of individuals with alcohol dependence are actually accessing treatment. This indicates that the numbers of people recorded as attending treatment are not reflective of the number of individuals in the country who require and are seeking support around alcohol use (Carew, O’Neill, Lyons, and Smyth, 2022).
In 2021, it was reported that in Ireland over 3,500 people were on waiting lists for drug and alcohol detox beds. This highlights the barriers individuals are experiencing when trying to access treatment with limited detox beds available. The report noted the crucial period between applying for treatment and accessing a bed, and emphasised that people might experience better outcomes if they had quicker access to supports (The Journal, 2021).
Community alcohol detox – A non-residential option
For individuals who are either waiting on a residential treatment bed, those who are not in a position to access residential services, or those who are experiencing additional barriers in accessing services, there are supports available within local communities.
Community alcohol detox is a process that supports an individual to reduce or stop their use of alcohol through a structured non-residential process. The individual will be prescribed medication from their doctor and may engage with a key-worker, counsellor or support group to assist them through the process from preparation right through to aftercare. This can be chosen as an alternative to in-patient detoxification or as a first step in supporting the individual to meet entry requirements for residential detox or rehabilitation.
In an ideal world, this is how a community alcohol detox would work, yet access to community based services is not the same everywhere. We would always recommend individuals to speak with their doctor who may be able to advise on support options in their area. In addition, not everyone who is alcohol dependent will require a medically supervised detox, but they may benefit from therapeutic support to help them to reduce. However, it is always recommended that people explore options with their doctor before they start to cut down and ask for information about where to access therapeutic support within or around they area in which they are living.
Community Response’s new community alcohol detox broker role
Community Response is an alcohol service in Dublin 8 offering a range of groups and one-to-one services for anyone looking for support around alcohol. Some of the supports provided are:
- One-to-One Support and Advice
- Alcohol Stabilisation Group
- Community Alcohol Detox Support
- Change & Recovery (sobriety based)
- Aftercare Programme (sobriety based)
- Women’s Support Group
- Family / Concerned Person Support
- Mindfulness & Holistic Supports
The community alcohol detox broker is a new role on the team to support individuals to access and undertake community alcohol detox with the aim of addressing some of the barriers in relation to accessing alcohol treatment. This role aims to:
- Support individuals in the process of preparing for, and accessing community alcohol detox.
- Provide one-to-one assessments and key-working for individuals who are undertaking community alcohol detox.
- Be a point of contact for identified community-based projects and/or referral agents in the South Inner-City area, signposting people to suitable local services
- Liaise with and provide doctors, primary care centres, hospitals, social services and other healthcare providers a direct point of contact when they are working with someone who requires psychosocial support in relation to alcohol and/or community alcohol detox.
Make the Change: An Alcohol Reduction Resource
Find out more information about services and supports for alcohol reduction in your area through Make the Change a website offering information and guidance for individuals and their families who are looking for support around alcohol in addition to information and guidance for professionals supporting people around alcohol. It covers the following topics:
- General advice and information about alcohol reduction
- Alcohol treatment options and a service directory
- Video Resources
- Alcohol Toolkit
- Community Alcohol Resource Manual
- Information and guidance for professionals making referrals
- Visit makethechange.ie
Condron, I., Lyons, S., Carew, A. (2022) 2022 Alcohol treatment demand. The Health Research Board. Retrieved from: https://www.hrb.ie/fileadmin/2._Plugin_related_files/Publications/2023_Publications/NDTRS_2023/Alcohol_bulletin/Alcohol_treatment_demand_2022_bulletin.pdf
Carew, A. M., O’Neill, D., Lyons, S., & Smyth, B. P. (2022). Estimating need for alcohol treatment in Ireland using national treatment surveillance data. Irish Journal of Medical Science (1971-), 1-9.
Maria Delaney (2021) Over 3,500 on wait list for a detox bed, with over 140 residential beds still closed. The Journal. Retrieved from: https://www.thejournal.ie/detox-bed-waiting-list-5421391-Apr2021/