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July 26, 2014

Statistics on deaths among drug users published

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Photo by Denis Closon / Rex Features

By Lloyd Mudiwa.

The number of deaths among drug users in Ireland due to medical causes has risen by 58 per cent in the space of just six years, according to new statistics.

According to figures published in the Health Research Board’s report, ‘Drug-related Deaths and Deaths among Drug users in Ireland: 2010 Figures from the National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI)’, the number of deaths due to medical causes remained stable in 2010.

“However, the numbers have risen steadily over the reporting period, increasing from 55 in 2004 to a total of 131 in both 2009 and 2010,” reads a portion of the report.
The most common medical causes of death in 2010 were cardiac events (34, or 26 per cent) and respiratory problems (16, or 12 per cent).

The majority (63 per cent) of those who died from medical causes in 2010 were aged between 30 and 49 years. The median age was 43 years. Males accounted for 76 per cent (100) of those who died due to medical causes.

The number of deaths due to trauma, however, decreased in 2010, to 112 deaths, down from 132 in 2009. The most common causes of death due to trauma in 2010 were hanging (49, or 44 per cent) and drowning (12, or 12 per cent) with the majority (76, or 68 per cent) of those who died from traumatic causes aged less than 39 years (median age 33). As in previous years, the majority (87, or 78 per cent) of those who died due to trauma were male.

Overall, in the seven-year period 2004-2010, a total of 3,972 deaths by drug poisoning and deaths among drug users met the criteria for inclusion in the NDRDI database. Of these deaths, 2,364 were due to poisoning and 1,608 were deaths among drug users (non-poisoning).

The annual number of deaths in 2010 decreased to 575, compared to 652 in 2009, although the 2010 figure was likely to be revised when new data become available.

The annual number of poisoning deaths increased from 267 in 2004 to 388 in 2007, but decreased in subsequent years, to a total of 323 in 2010, with just over half (52 per cent) of all deaths in 2010 involving just one substance.

The decline in poisoning deaths appeared to reflect the wider international trend, which showed a decrease in the number of drug-related deaths in Europe, according to the report.

Males accounted for the majority of deaths in each year since 2004; 74 per cent of all poisoning deaths in 2010 were male.

Alcohol was involved in 46 per cent of deaths (76) in 2010 — more than any other substance.  Alcohol alone was responsible for 24 per cent of all deaths (323). Benzodiazepines, which include diazepam and flurazepam, were the second-most common drug group implicated in poisoning deaths, after alcohol.

The number of deaths in which heroin, cocaine and methadone were implicated continued to fall, reflecting a Europe-wide trend in the case of cocaine.

lloyd.mudiwa@imt.ie