Home > Launch of the National Drug-Related Deaths Index.

Lynn, Ena and Long, Jean (2005) Launch of the National Drug-Related Deaths Index. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 16, Winter 2005, pp. 1-2.

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On the 26 September 2005, government officials, community organisations, service providers, representatives of the Garda, along with the media and other interested parties, gathered at Ozanam House Community Resource Centre to mark the launch of the National Drug-Related Deaths Index.

Mr David Maloney, principal officer at the Department of Health and Children, welcomed the audience and introduced the distinguished panel of speakers, which included Mr Seán Power TD, minister of state at the Department of Health and Children, Mr Philip Keegan, chairperson of the Family Support Network, and Dr Jean Long, senior researcher at the Health Research Board.

Speaking at the launch Minister Power complimented the Family Support Network on its ongoing work and affirmed his support for the establishment of the Index. The minister said: ‘The Index is being established to help deliver one of the key aims of the National Drugs Strategy, which highlights the need to gather better information about the drugs issue and responses to it.’  This initiative will particularly address Action 67, which identifies the need to develop an accurate mechanism for recording the number of drug-related deaths in Ireland.1 He said: ‘In many cases, the connection between drug use and death may not be either identified or recorded. A death resulting from an infectious disease contracted through drug misuse, for example, may not feature in the current figures. There are clear concerns that our knowledge of the true cost of drug misuse through lost lives is not as comprehensive as it should be. This new Index will be a significant step towards better quality data and improved accuracy on the true cause of death.’

Mr Philip Keegan presented a brief history of the development of the Index. When compiling background information for the first Service of Commemoration and Hope in November 2000, the Family Support Network could not locate accurate numbers of drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users. This was because the current system could only extract data on direct drug-related deaths. Following the service, Dr Joe Barry, medical advisor to the National Drugs Strategy Team, with the co-operation of parents, reviewed death certificates of their children who had died as a result of drug use. This review found that many of the drug-related-deaths and deaths among drug users were miscoded. A sub-group was subsequently set up to examine the prospect of establishing an index to record drug-related deaths and a proposal was submitted to government in 2004. Mr Keegan said that drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users were indicators of the consequences of drug misuse in Ireland. He went on to suggest that the accurate recording of such deaths would lead to more appropriate policy and planning. In addition, Mr Keegan called for appropriate services for bereaved families, such as counselling provided by counsellors who have a professional understanding of both addiction and bereavement.

Dr Jean Long presented a brief overview of what is currently known about drug-related deaths in Ireland2 in the following key points:

  • The number of direct drug-related deaths increased in Ireland between 1996 and 2000 with the majority of deaths occurring in Dublin. In 2001, there was a substantial decrease in the number of direct drug-related deaths in Dublin and a continued increase in direct drug-related deaths outside Dublin. These data follow trends in people seeking treatment for problem opiate use.
  • More men than women have died of direct drug-related incidents.
  • Entry to or exit from prison is a risk period for drug-related deaths.
  • Opiate-related deaths account for the largest proportion of direct drug-related deaths.
  • Polysubstance use is associated with deaths among drug users.
  • Injecting drug use is associated with infection and subsequent mortality.

 Mr Niall Cullen, assistant principal officer at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, thanked the Coroner Service for its positive involvement in relation to data collection for the Index. He acknowledged the pain and grief involved for bereaved families. He envisaged that the Index would provide more precise information and help in developing responses to the problem. He thanked the minister for launching the Index, the Family Support Network for highlighting the problem and contributing to the solution, the Department of Health and Children for their successful work in partnership with his own department in establishing the Index, and both Dr Joe Barry and Dr Jean Long for the key roles they played. He concluded by stating that the Health Research Board is the most appropriate institution to host this Index.

Mr David Maloney concluded by thanking the audience in attendance and reiterating the acknowledgement and thanks to all those involved in what may become a leading example in Europe of how drug-related deaths are recorded and analysed.  

1. Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation (2001) Building on experience: National Drugs Strategy 2001–2008. Dublin: Stationery Office.

2. Long J, Lynn E and Keating J (2005) Drug-related deaths in Ireland, 1990–2002. Overview 1, Dublin: Health Research Board. 

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Issue Title
Issue 16, Winter 2005
October 2005
Page Range
pp. 1-2
Health Research Board
Issue 16, Winter 2005
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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