The Chambers English dictionary describes alcoholism as a condition suffered by an alcoholic, ie. someone who is addicted to excessive drinking of alcohol.
But while its definition may appear straightforward, the disease and the indiscriminate way it affects people of all ages, classes and backgrounds is anything but clearcut.
One man who knows the full extent of the problem is manager of Castleisland-based Talbot Grove Treatment Centre, Con Cremin, who has witnessed first hand the excruciating lows of the disease, along with the highs that can come with treatment and recovery.
After 15 years at the centre, Mr Cremin says that alcoholism is a problem that continues to increase. One in ten people will admit having a problem with alcohol use, he says, and of those, only another one in ten will seek treatment.
“Alcoholism is the number one addiction problem in the country and it has always been. It causes more damage than any other drug by virtue of the fact that alcohol use is prevalent among the bulk of the population,” he said. “Kerry continues to be among the upper end of the scale of those seeking treatment, most likely because the level of alcohol use is high, but also because of the services available here.”
Since taking the helm of Talbot Grove in 1996, Mr Cremin has seen a shift in the ‘typical’ person seeking treatment. In recent years, the age profile has dropped, with the majority of those presenting now aged in their mid 20s to mid 40s. This is a positive thing, he says, as it shows that more people are seeking treatment early and that there’s less stigma attached to getting treatment.
The ratio of men to women seeking treatment is now pretty much on a par, compared to 10 years ago when just a third of patients were women.
While he believes that there aren’t different ‘types’ of alcoholic, Mr Cremin says that there are different types of drinkers and different stages of alcoholism.