Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 239 - National Drugs Strategy [Deaths] [30986/07]

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 239 - National Drugs Strategy [Deaths] [30986/07]. (27 Nov 2007)

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239.  Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children  when she asked the Health Research Board to establish a national drug related death index. [30986/07]

Minister for Health and Children (Deputy Mary Harney): The Department of Health and Children and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform jointly asked the Health Research Board in 2005 to establish a National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI). This Index was established to comply with Action 67 of ’Building on Experience: National Drug Strategy 2001-2008’. The Index is a census of drug and alcohol-related deaths and deaths among substance users in Ireland which is one of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction’s (EMCDDA) key indicators to measure the consequences of the drug situation. Prior to the establishment of the NDRDI, the main source of information on drug related deaths was the General Mortality Register. Statistics in the General Mortality Register are collected by the Central Statistics Office which measures - as it is required to do - direct drug-related deaths based on an international classification system. It does not have a reliable measure of deaths which are indirectly related to drug use and so does not provide the full picture of drug-related deaths. For example, a death through an infectious disease contracted through drug use may not feature in the General Mortality Register as drug-related. To remedy the above limitations the NDRDI was established. The data for the Index is drawn from a number of sources including the General Mortality Register; the Coroner’s Service; the Hospital In-patient Enquiry (HIPE); and the Central Treatment List.

The Index includes statistics from the coroner’s service on “sudden and unexpected deaths with positive drug toxicology or a history of drug dependency”. These data are extracted from closed coroner files. Files may not be closed for a period of time due to a number of reasons such as awaiting toxicology results, pathology results, Garda reports and delay in criminal court proceedings. These processes must be complete before an inquest is held and the file closed. For example, for some deaths which occurred in 2003 the inquest was held in 2005. This indicates that there may be up to a 2 year delay before the cause of death is ascertained and the file is closed. 2004 is the latest year for which data is available as the work is done retrospectively. A steering committee, co-chaired by the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform provides general and technical advice on the development of the Index and the first report from the NDRDI will be available in late 2008. Vol. 642 No. 3 Written Answers Tuesday, 27 November 2007

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