Home > Update on direct drug-related deaths in Ireland.

Long, Jean and Coleman, Lorraine and Lynn, Ena (2006) Update on direct drug-related deaths in Ireland. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 18, Summer 2006 , pp. 20-21.

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Problem drug use can lead to premature death. Deaths can occur as a result of overdose (both intentional and unintentional), actions taken under the influence of drugs, medical consequences and incidental causes. Drug-related deaths and mortality among drug users are indicators of the consequences of problem drug use in Ireland. 

The data presented in this article provides the number of direct-drug-related deaths between 1980 and 2003, based on unpublished data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).  Direct drug-related deaths are those occurring as a result of overdose.  At the European level, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has developed a standardised method for extracting data on drug-related deaths from the mortality registers in all member states.1 Staff at the CSO2 extracted and collated the data in April 2006, using the EMCDDA’s  ‘Selection B’ definition of drug-related death. 

Figure 1 presents the numbers of direct-drug-related deaths in Ireland between 1980 and 2003, extracted from the General Mortality Register.  There were few deaths in the eighties.  Between 1990 and 1994, there was a small but steady increase in the number of drug-related deaths, and between 1995 and 1999 a substantial increase. This was followed by a considerable decline in the number of deaths between 2000 and 2002.  In 2003, the number of drug-related deaths increased marginally when compared to 2001 and 2002. 

 

 

Between 2001 and 2003, 60% of direct drug-related deaths were opiate-related.

Figure 2 presents the numbers of direct drug-related deaths in Dublin and in the rest of Ireland between 1980 and 2003. 

According to data from the General Mortality Register, almost all direct drug-related deaths between 1980 and 1994 occurred in Dublin. Between 1995 and 1999, there was a substantial increase in drug-related deaths in Dublin, from 33 to 96; and there was a steady increase in drug-related deaths outside the Dublin area, from 3 to 26.

Between 2000 and 2003, there was a sharp decline in direct drug-related deaths in Dublin, from 83 in 2000 to 46 in 2003.  This possibly reflects the decrease in new opiate users, the increase in methadone treatment places, the reduction in average waiting times for methadone treatment and the provision of methadone treatment in the Dublin prisons. 

During this period there was a continued increase in drug-related deaths outside Dublin, from 30 in 2000 to 50 in 2003.  In 2003, the number of drug-related deaths outside Dublin exceeded the number of drug-related deaths in Dublin for the first time.  The data for outside Dublin follow trends in problem opiate use in that geographical area. 

 

  
The approach to opiate treatment in Dublin has been successful. It is likely that the introduction of opiate treatment in prisons and the reduction in average waiting times, in conjunction with the increase in methadone treatment places, have been key strategies in achieving this reduction. A similar approach to the management of problem opiate use is required outside Dublin.

1.  EMCDDA (2002) The DRD-Standard, version 3.0: EMCDDA standard protocol for the EU Member States to collect data and report figures for the key indicator drug-related deaths by the standard Reitox tables. EMCDDA project CT.02.P1.05. Lisbon: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

2. The authors would like to thank Joseph Keating at the Central Statistics Office for extracting and collating the data on direct drug-related deaths from the General Mortality Register. 

Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 18, Summer 2006
Date:April 2006
Page Range:pp. 20-21
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 18, Summer 2006
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Available)
Subjects:VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland
P Demography, epidemiology, and history > Population dynamics > Substance related mortality / death

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