Alcohol and other drugs kill two people a day in Ireland

Fatalities up 62% over 10 years, with half of those who died aged 39 or younger

Alcohol was implicated in one in three deaths over the 2004-14 period. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Alcohol was implicated in one in three deaths over the 2004-14 period. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

 

Two people a day died from causes related to alcohol and other drug use in 2014, according to latest figures from the Health Research Board.

There were 697 drug-related deaths in 2014 and almost 6,700 over the preceding decade, a period that saw a 62 per cent rise in fatalities, the figures show.

Many of these deaths were premature – half of all deaths were of people aged 39 years and under. Three in four of all deaths were male.

Alcohol was implicated in one in three deaths and remains the single most common cause of deaths over the 2004-14 period.

“It is not just illicit drugs that are resulting in death,” according to Graham Love, chief executive of the board. “Over time we are seeing a rise in the number of deaths involving prescription drugs and cocktails of different drugs. Mixing drugs increases the risk of death, which is clearly reflected in these figures.”

Benzodiazepines

Prescription drugs were implicated in 259, or three in every four, deaths by poisoning (overdose). Benzodiazepines were the most common drug group involved – diazepam alone accounted for 115, or one in three, of all poisoning deaths.

Heroin was implicated in 90 deaths, methadone in 98 and cocaine in 40. Deaths from zopiclone, a non-benzodiazepine sedative, increased from 51 in 2013 to 72 in 2014.

Two-thirds who died from overdoses were on a cocktail of drugs, with an average of four drugs taken.

The number of non-poisoning, drug-related deaths increased by 14 per cent, to 343 in 2014. One in four involved hanging and 13 per cent followed cardiac events.