Ireland records third-highest drug-death rate among 30 countries

European Drug Report shows illicit drug deaths are four times the EU rate

The rate of drug-induced deaths in Ireland is the third highest in Europe and stands at four times the EU rate, according to a new report.

The report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drugs Addiction (EMCDD), published yesterday, shows Ireland had a rate of 70.5 deaths per million population in 2011 compared with an EU rate of 17.1 deaths per million.

Ireland recorded the third highest rate after Estonia (190.8 per million) and Norway (75.9 per million).

A total of 2,195 illicit drug-induced deaths were recorded in Ireland in the 14-year period between 1998 and 2011.


Senior researcher with the Health Research Board Suzi Lyons noted that, following an overall decrease in such deaths between 2009 and 2010 (when they fell from 216 to 172) the figure increased to 220 in 2011. Heroin decrease A decrease in heroin- and cocaine-related deaths has coincided with a rise in non-heroin opiate-related deaths, involving for example methadone, codeine and other prescription opiates.

Tony Geoghegan, chief executive of Merchants Quay Ireland, a national voluntary organisation which provides treatment services for homeless people and drug users, pointed out that the 220 drug-induced deaths in 2011 outstripped the 186 road deaths recorded the same year.

Despite this, he said, there was complacency around the issue. Treatment options in Ireland were too narrow. “The range of treatment modalities that are offered here are very much a one-size-fits-all methadone-treatment approach . . . rather than trying to tailor programmes to people’s needs as they do in other jurisdictions,” he said.

Yesterday’s EMCDD report, which covers the 28 EU member states , Turkey and Norway, shows that a quarter of Irish people aged between 15 and 64 had tried cannabis, with 6 per cent saying they had taken the drug within the year prior to the survey.

A third of young adults (aged 15 to 34) had taken cannabis at some stage, with 10.3 per cent saying they had done so within the previous year.

Ireland featured third in a list of countries for cocaine prevalence, with 6.8 per cent of the population having taken the drug at some point in their lives, while the rate of 15- to 64-year-olds who said they had taken cocaine within the past year stood at 1.5 per cent.

Ireland was second only to the UK for ecstasy use with 6.9 per cent of 15- to 64-year-olds saying they had tried the drug. However, just 0.5 per cent said they had done so within the past year.