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Lyons, Suzi and Walsh, Simone (2013) Update on drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 45, Spring 2013, p. 11.

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National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI) figures on drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users reported in 2010 are now available online.1 The figures in this update supersede all previously published figures. Similarly, figures for 2010 will be revised when data relating to new cases becomes available.


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 due to traumatic or medical causes (non-poisoning) (Table 1).

Poisoning deaths in 2010
The annual number of deaths increased from 267 in 2004 to 388 in 2007, but decreased in subsequent years, to a total of 323 in 2010 (Table 1).  This appears to reflect a downward trend in the number of drug-related deaths in Europe in 2009 and 2010.2 As in all previous years, males accounted for the majority of deaths (74% in 2010). The majority were aged between 20 and 44 years; the median age was 40 years. 

Deaths due to trauma
The number of deaths due to trauma decreased to 112 in 2010, down from 132 in 2009 (Figure 1). The majority (68%) of those who died were aged under 39 years. The median age was 33 years. As in previous years, the majority were male (78% in 2010).  The most common causes of death due to trauma were hanging and drowning. 

Deaths due to medical causes
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 131 in both 2009 and 2010 (Figure 1). The majority (63%) of those who died were aged between 30 and 49 years. The median age was 43 years. Males accounted for 76% of those who died. The most common medical causes of death were cardiac events and respiratory problems.
1. Health Research Board (2013) Drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users in Ireland: 2010 figures from the National Drug-Related Deaths Index. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/18905
2. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2012) Annual report 2012: the state of the drugs problem in Europe. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/18783
3. Stokes S (2011) Quantitative evidence of a heroin drought. Drugnet Ireland, (26): 21–23.


Just over half (52%) of all poisoning deaths involved more than one substance (polysubstance cases). In 2010 the number of deaths in which heroin was implicated decreased by 39%, to 70 compared to 115 in 2009. The well-documented heroin drought in Ireland in December 2010 and the early part of 2011 may well have been a factor in this reduction.3 However, further analysis of the data and trends in 2011 deaths need to be considered before the full impact of that event can be understood.
Since 2007 there has been a 70% decrease in the number of deaths where cocaine was implicated, with 20 deaths in 2010 compared to 66 in 2007. This again reflects a downward trend in the number of cocaine-related deaths in some European countries.2
Alcohol was involved in 46% of all poisoning deaths in 2010, more than any other drug. Benzodiazepines, which include diazepam and flurazepam, were the second most common drug group implicated in poisoning deaths.  
Non-poisoning deaths in 2010
The number of non-poisoning deaths decreased slightly to 252 in 2010, compared to 278 in 2009 (Table 1).  It was possible to categorise 243 of the deaths in 2010 as being due either to trauma or to medical causes. 
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Issue Title
Issue 45, Spring 2013
April 2013
Page Range
p. 11
Health Research Board
Issue 45, Spring 2013
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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