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The number of patients seeking treatment for alcohol dependence at a private clinic has increased by 25 per cent, while problem cocaine use has fallen, a GP specialising in substance abuse has told the Medical Independent (MI).
According to Dr Garrett McGovern, founder of Priority Medical Clinic, Dublin, the rise in alcohol use is in response to Covid-19 and the lockdown measures introduced in March. Around 90 per cent of patients at the clinic are seeking treatment for problem drinking in the home.
“At first we didn’t see any increase, but lately we are seeing a number of cases caused by lockdown and a huge upsurge in drinking in the home. Most of the calls we receive are about alcohol,” Dr McGovern told MI.
Of those presenting for treatment, about 70 per cent are women and 30 per cent are men, he said.
Dr McGovern said alcohol lends itself to domestic use and is the main problem-drug among patients presenting. He said alcohol is “our national drug” and for many people seeking treatment, alcohol abstinence is not the principal outcome. However, most are able to positively change their relationship with alcohol.
For women, the most common drink consumed is wine, with some drinking one or even two bottles a night, said Dr McGovern. The next most common drug cited by patients who present to the clinic is cocaine, although this has lessened since the lockdown, according to Dr McGovern.
“Cocaine is mostly used by people in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s,” he said. “It was mostly used by people after work as a stress reliever. They would make a call, collect the drugs, take them in their car after work and then go home. But lockdown has reduced this.”
According to the World Health Organisation, alcohol is responsible for around three million deaths worldwide annually. A report by the Central Statistics Office on the social impact of Covid-19, conducted in April, found 21 per cent of men and 23 per cent of women had increased their alcohol intake.