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Decrease in the number of drug-related deaths - latest HRB figures

5 February 2013

The annual number of drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users in Ireland decreased from 652 in 2009 to 575 in 2010. The number of deaths in which heroin was implicated saw the biggest drop of 39%, decreasing from 115 in 2009, to 70 in 2010.

The number of deaths by poisonings, where death is a result of the toxic effect of consuming a drug alone, or in combination with other drugs, have been falling since 2007. In addition to the large drop in heroin implicated deaths in 2010, the number of cocaine-related deaths has fallen by 70% since 2007, with 20 deaths in 2010, compared to 66 in 2007.

Alcohol was implicated in almost half (46%) of all poisonings, which is more than any other drug or substance. Alcohol alone was responsible for 24% of deaths. Benzodiazepines were the second most common drug group implicated in poisonings after alcohol. Males accounted for the majority (76%) of poisonings in 2010. The median age of death in 2010 was 40 years.
 
There was also a small decrease in the number of deaths among drug users, where death may be directly or indirectly linked to their use of the drug, such as trauma or medical causes. The number of deaths due to trauma decreased from 132 in 2009, to 112 in 2010. The most common causes in this category were hanging (46%) or drowning (12%). The majority of cases were under 39 years of age and 38% were male.

The number of deaths among drugs users as a result of medical causes remained stable in 2010, having increased progressively from 55 in 2004, to 131 in 2009.The most common causes were cardiac events (26%) and respiratory problems (12%).

'The fall in the number of poisonings deaths reflects a wider international trend, which shows a decrease in drug-related deaths across Europe,' says Dr Suzi Lyons, senior researcher for drug information systems at the Health Research Board.

'The HRB will continue to monitor and update figures relating to drug-related deaths as it is one of the key indicators used to measure the consequences of problem drug use'.

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