Big increase in drug-related deaths

Mon, Dec 5, 2011, 00:00

The number of deaths caused by drugs in Ireland has risen by 51 per cent over a six-year period, research has shown.

Figures released by the Health Research Board (HRB) showed that 638 people died in 2009, compared with 422 in 2004.

A total of 3,334 deaths could be linked with drugs over that entire period.

HRB researcher Dr Suzi Lyons pointed out that of that figure, 2,015 were caused by poisoning, while 1,319 were deaths of drug users brought about by certain kinds of trauma or medical conditions.

Alcohol was accountable for 40 per cent of all poisoning deaths during the six-year period, while heroin caused 21 per cent.

“The inclusion of alcohol-only poisonings in the figures highlights the detrimental impact of alcohol in drug-related deaths, while the rise in the number of deaths where heroin is implicated is also of concern,” said Dr Lyons.

Heroin was linked to 90 deaths in 2008, but that number rose by 20 per cent to 108 the following year.

Despite these increases, the overall number of deaths - caused both by poisoning and drug-related trauma - dropped slightly from 641 in 2008 to 638 in 2009.

“While the most recent figures suggest a stabilisation in the overall number of drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users, we have still seen a significant rise in these deaths in Ireland over the last six years,” Dr Lyons said.

The figures, included in the HRB’s National Drug-Related Deaths Index, showed that the main cause of trauma deaths, not linked with drug poisoning, was hanging, while deaths brought about by medical conditions that had no relation to poisoning were mainly caused by heart attacks.

The research also showed that in 2009, 68 per cent of those who died from drug poisoning were male.

The majority of those poisoning deaths were aged between 25 and 44, with over half of those 37 or younger.

PA