Drug and alcohol admissions to hospital falling significantly

The average cost of each hospital admission has been estimated at £1,500

A drug to help people with alcohol dependency may be prescribed in the north
Hospital admissions involving alcohol poisoning and drug overdose have fallen

Admissions to hospital due to substance abuse have declined significantly, new figures reveal.

Since 2018 admission rates for alcohol poisoning have dropped by more than 63% while admissions for drug overdoses fell by almost 47%.

The figures were revealed in a question to the Minister of Health from DUP Minister Michelle McIlveen.

A spokesperson for the Department for Health said the Executive’s 10-year Substance Use Strategy Preventing Harm, Empowering Recovery aims to directly prevent and reduce the harm related to substance use adding the number of hospital admissions can therefore be used as an indicator to measure progress.

The number of hospital admissions for alcohol poisoning and drug overdoses over the past five years
The number of hospital admissions for alcohol poisoning and drug overdoses over the past five years

However, Belfast Councillor Paul McCusker said he does not believe the figures are a true reflection of the situation.

“Support and charity services who engage with those battling addiction daily are now equipped to reverse the effects of an overdose on the street meaning less people need hospital treatment,” he said.

“There are times when an ambulance will be called to the scene where an overdose is reversed and the patient then refuses hospital treatment so they are not being admitted. We also see is a lot of people being discharged and referred to addiction services instead of being treated in a hospital setting. These are all contributing factors to the latest figures which don’t capture the whole story.

“Make no mistake drug overdose is still a huge concern and if it wasn’t for the support services on the street tackling the issue more people would be dead.

“That’s why we need to see a dual diagnoses approach implemented into the department’s strategy. When people present to a hospital setting as a result of substance abuse it is often linked to poor mental health. Without addressing the root of the problem people will continue to use drugs as a coping mechanism.”

Drug overdose still accounts for over 2,000 hospital admissions a years - costing £3m between 2022-23.

Admissions as a result of alcohol poisoning and drug overdose have cost more than £14.3 since 2020.

There were 154 drug-related deaths registered in 2022, a decrease of 27.7% from the previous year.