Drug-related deaths up 50% since 2004, Dáil hears

Trinity statistics show alcohol responsible for 1,500 hospital beds every night

Drug-related deaths have increased by 50 per cent since records began in 2004, according to the Minister for Health. Leo Varadkar there had been a slight decrease in the number of drug-related deaths, from 645 in 2011 to 633 in 2012, but the overall trend was up by half in the past decade.

Some 5,300 people had died in this period and “each of those deaths was a tragedy in its own right”. However he was “firmly of the view” that many of these deaths were avoidable, particularly those involving heroin or methadone. To prevent these tragedies, the Minister said the Health Service Executive (HSE) was to begin supplying 600 opiate users and their families “with an antidote to drug overdoses”.

Mr Varadkar said the antidote Naloxone reversed the effects of drugs such as heroin, morphine and methadone if a user overdosed.

Sinn Féin’s Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe raised the issue, saying drugs taskforces had suffered funding cuts while having alcohol added to their remit.


Mr Crowe, who also said that there should be a specific minister for drugs, pointed to statistics from Dr Joe Barry of Trinity College Dublin which said that alcohol was responsible "for 88 deaths a month and 1,500 hospital beds being taken up each night".

Mr Varadkar said an extra €2.1 million was included in the 2015 HSE budget for drug treatment measures, but he said he was unable to increase taskforce budgets.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times