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Lyons, Suzi and Lynn, Ena (2014) Latest figures on drug-related deaths published. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 49, Spring 2014 , p. 14.

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The latest national figures on drug-related deaths in 2011 have been published.1  The figures in this update supersede all previously published figures. Similarly, figures for 2011 will be revised when data relating to new cases become available.

In the eight-year period 2004 to 2011, a total of 4,606 deaths by drug poisoning and deaths among drug users met the criteria for inclusion in the NDRDI database. Of these deaths, 2,745 were due to poisoning and 1,861 were deaths among drug users (non-poisoning) (Table 1). There were 607 deaths in 2011, compared to 597 in 2010.



Poisoning deaths in 2011
The increase in the total number of drug-related deaths in 2011 is due entirely to an increase in the number of poisoning deaths, which rose from 338 in 2010 to 365 in 2011 (Table 1).   As in previous years, the majority (72%) were male. The median age of those who died was 39 years, again similar to previous years.
In 2011, alcohol was, once again, the drug most commonly involved in poisoning deaths (37%); however, several new trends emerged. Over half (59%) of all poisoning deaths involved more than one drug (polydrug use), with a total of 215 cases, a 28% increase on the 2010 figure of 168   Additionally, the number of deaths where prescription drugs were implicated increased sharply compared to 2010 figures. The number of deaths where benzodiazepines were implicated increased by 61%, to 166 in 2011 compared to 103 in 2010. There was also a steep increase in the number of deaths where antidepressant drugs were implicated, from 66 in 2010 to 96 in 2011. In addition, the number of deaths where methadone was implicated increased to 113, compared to 60 in 2010. 
The reasons behind these upward trends are not yet clear and further analysis is needed to begin to understand the factors involved. What is known is that there was no change in the methodology used by the NDRDI between 2010 and 2011. What is also known is that 68% of those who died where methadone was implicated were not registered on the Central Treatment List (of people receiving methadone substitution treatment) at the time of their death.
The number of poisoning deaths in which heroin was implicated continues to decline, falling by 17% to 60 in 2011, compared to 72 in 2010. It is of note that similar trends were observed in Scotland during the same time period.2  
Non-poisoning deaths in 2011
The number of non-poisoning deaths recorded among drug users dropped for a second year, to 242, compared to 259 in 2010 (Table 1). These deaths are categorised as being due either to trauma or to medical causes (Figure 1).



Deaths due to trauma
The number of deaths due to trauma decreased in 2011, to 117 deaths, down from 122 in 2010 (Figure 1). The majority (71%) of those who died were aged under 39 years. The median age was 29 years. As in previous years, the majority were male (86%).  The most common causes of death due to trauma were hanging and road traffic collisions.  Even though there has been a slight overall reduction in the number of traumatic deaths, it is notable that there has been a rise in the number of deaths due to hanging, from 49 deaths in 2010 to 65 in 2011.
Deaths due to medical causes
The number of deaths due to medical causes decreased slightly in 2011 (Figure 1). The majority (60%) 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 liver diseases.


1. Health Research Board (2014) Drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users in Ireland: 2011 figures from the National Drug-Related Deaths Index.  www.drugsandalcohol.ie/21005
2. National Records Scotland (2012) Drug related deaths in Scotland in 2011. Edinburgh: National Statistics Scotland. www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/files2/stats/drug-related-deaths/2011/drug-related-deaths2011.pdf


Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 49, Spring 2014
Date:April 2014
Page Range:p. 14
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 49, Spring 2014
Accession Number:HRB (Electronic Only)
Subjects:G Health and disease > Disorder by cause > Emotional trauma
P Demography, epidemiology, and history > Population dynamics > Substance related mortality / death
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland

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