Alcohol and Drugs



Alcohol is popularly consumed in Northern Ireland and appears to be the DRUG of choice.

When people think of drug abuse, they don’t connect it with alcohol.

The reason is partly cultural. In Northern Ireland many adults and unfortunately a lot of our youth drink alcohol to excess. For an adult it is legal and socially acceptable to drink alcohol.

Think of the ads and media images of alcohol. They portray fun, excitement and humour.

Yet there is another side... In Northern Ireland in 2013 there were 236 alcohol related deaths and almost 12,000 admissions to hospital due to alcohol. These figures are sadly rising.

Alcohol is a casual factor in more than 60 medical conditions including mouth, throat, stomach, liver and breast cancer; high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver and depression. In 2010, alcohol use was the third leading risk factor contributing to the global burden of disease after high blood pressure and tobacco smoking.

Alcohol misuse costs almost £900m a year in Northern Ireland. This equates to about one tenth of Northern Ireland's block grant from Westminster.

The approximate breakdown is:

  • Health Service -£250m annually
  • Social work - £48.5m
  • Fire and Police Services - £223.6m
  • Courts and Prisons - £83.8m
  • The wider economy - £201.7m

140,000 ED attendances happen every year in the South Eastern Trust’s hospitals. Up to 80% of these are alcohol related particularly at weekends. 20 – 25% of admissions to hospital are alcohol related.

40% of children on the child protection register are there as a direct result of parental substance misuse

70% of children Looked After are as a direct result of parental substance misuse

40-50% of those engaged with generic mental health services misuse alcohol and/or drugs

The challenge is so many people do not see their alcohol use as problematic.

In a recent survey:

  • More than 7 out of 10 adults drink alcohol
  • 35% of males and 25% of females reported having binged on at least one occasion in the week prior to the survey
  • 79% of women of child bearing age (18-44years) reported to drink alcohol
  • The most common drinking locations were their own home (62%), followed by a pub (20%), someone else’s home (20%) and at a restaurant (16%) (DHSSPSNI/NISRA, 2011)

Alcohol in moderation can be part of a healthy balanced diet; however it can easily be misused.

The Department of Health recommends that people follow sensible drinking guidelines to control and monitor the amount of alcohol they drink and to ensure that they are not at risk of binge drinking. These guideline were updated in January 2016


Check if your alcohol intake is putting your health at risk by visiting and do the short anonymous questionnaire.

If you want to know how many units and calories popular alcoholic beverages contain visit, scroll down the page and click on the red bar to launch our Virtual Bar

For further information about alcohol and its effects on your health visit


  • Alcohol and You: is a self help booklet to help people look at their drinking and to make changes that are right for them.
  • Tools for Change: Additional tools to help explore their drinking and change

Other helpful resources:

Alcohol and You
Cannabis and You
Taking the Lid Off Booklet
Taking the Lid Off Resource for Young People Living with Addiction
Taking The Lid Off Teen


Drugs are normally put into one of three categories, depending on how dangerous they are and the impact they have on society and not necessarily the individual.

Class A: these are the drugs that have the most harmful effect. They include; heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD

Class B: these include; cannabis, mephedrone and some amphetamines.

Class C: these include; ketamine, GHB, anabolic steroids and some tranquilisers.

There is also a “Temporary Class Drug Banning Order” to tackle the issue of Psychoactive substances (also known as legal highs)

In Northern Ireland during 2014/15:

  • A total of 2,262 clients presented to services for problem drug misuse and gave their consent for their details to be included in the DMD. This was 12% lower than in 2013/14 (2,574 clients).
  • Four-fifths of clients (80%) were male. Male clients were younger than female clients. For males, 32% were aged 18-25 and 17% were aged over 40 years old. For females, 23% were aged 18-25 and 32% were aged over 40 years old.
  • Two-fifths of those presenting for treatment (40%) took just one drug, while a fifth (21%) took two drugs, 16% took three drugs and 23% took four or more drugs.
  • Four-fifths of all clients (79%) used at least one hypnotic drug, with 56% of all clients using a hypnotic drug as their main drug of misuse.
  • Almost half of all clients (49%) used at least one stimulant drug, with it being the main drug for a fifth of all clients (19%).
  • Almost a third of all clients (32%) used at least one opioid analgesic drug, with 22% of all clients using one as their main drug of misuse.
  • Considering all drugs used by clients, the most commonly reported drug was Cannabis (used by 65% of clients) followed by Benzodiazepines (used by 36% of clients) and Cocaine (used by 34% of clients).
  • Cannabis was used by 42% of clients as the main drug of misuse in 2014/15, up from 39% in 2013/14.
  • Almost a third of those presenting for treatment (31%) had previously received treatment for their drug misuse.
  • The proportion of clients that had ever injected drugs during their lifetime stood at 11% in 2014/15. Injecting was notably higher in the Northern Trust (28% of clients) compared with the other Trust areas (9-11%)
  • Between 2004/05 and 2014/15, use of Cocaine among clients rose from 21% to 34%, while use of Ecstasy (27% to 13%) and Heroin (16% to 11%) both fell.


(The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety: Statistics from the Northern Ireland Drug Misuse Database: 1 April 2014 – 31 March 2015.)

See links below for further information about drugs:

ASCERT - Drug Information

Self -help Tools


Cannabis and You: is a self-help workbook for cannabis

Other helpful resources:

Alcohol and You
Cannabis and You
Taking the Lid Off Booklet
Taking the Lid Off Resource for Young People Living with Addiction
Taking The Lid Off Teen


Other pages here include:


Alcohol and Drug Services - Where to get help

Each of the Northern Ireland Drug and Alcohol Coordination Teams (DACTs) in each of the five Health Trust areas has produced a directory of services available in their area. They can be located here:

In the South Eastern Trust, Alcohol and You is The Trust, ASCERT and Addiction NI are working together to reduce alcohol related harm. It offers a range of services for adults over 18 including an Interactive website or self-help materials, one to one work and support for family members.

Telephone: 0800 2545123 Website:  
For more information around Alcohol check out the Alcohol and You Page, link above