Home > Drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users 2004–2015.

Lynn, Ena and Lyons, Suzi (2018) Drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users 2004–2015. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 64, Winter 2018, pp. 4-6.

PDF (Issue 64, Winter 2018) - Published Version

The HRB published the latest figures from the National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI) in December 2017.1 The new bulletin presents an overview of trends due to poisoning (overdose) by alcohol and/or other drugs, and deaths among drug users (non-poisoning) in the period 2004–2015 (Figure 1). 


In the 12-year period 2004–2015, there were a total of 7,422 drug-related deaths (Table 1):

  • 4,222 (57%) were due to poisoning.
  • 3,200 (43%) were due to non-poisoning. 

In 2015, there were 695 deaths (poisoning and non-poisoning combined), marginally lower than the number reported in 2014 (n=719):

  • Median age for all deaths in 2015 was 41 years and 72% (n=503) of all deaths were male.
  • There were approximately 20,000 of potential life years lost because of drug-related deaths in 2015. 

Drug-related deaths in 2015 among injectors:

  • 8% of all deaths were among injectors.
  • 52% of injectors died in Dublin city. 



Poisoning deaths in 2015

The annual number of poisoning deaths decreased by 4%, from 364 in 2014 to 348 in 2015. Almost two-thirds of poisoning deaths involved polydrugs, with an average of four different drugs involved. Benzodiazepines were the most common drug group implicated in polydrug deaths.


Prescription drugs were implicated in two out of three poisoning deaths: 

  • Diazepam (a benzodiazepine) was the most common single prescription drug implicated in almost one-third (101, 29%) of all poisonings.
  • Methadone was implicated in one-quarter of poisonings (86, 25%).
  • Pregabalin-related deaths (an antiepileptic drug also prescribed for chronic pain and some anxiety conditions) increased by 69%, from 26 deaths in 2014 to 44 in 2015. 

The number of deaths where the illicit drug cocaine was implicated increased by 110% since 2010:

  • Cocaine-related deaths have been increasing since 2010, with 44 deaths reported in 2015 compared to 21 in 2010.

Alcohol was implicated in 107 deaths (31% of all poisonings): 

  • Alcohol alone was responsible for 14% (n=47) of all poisoning deaths in 2015. 

Non-poisoning deaths in 2015

The number of non-poisoning deaths deceased by 2%, from 355 in 2014 to 347 in 2015. The main causes of non-poisoning deaths were hanging (83, 24%) and cardiac events (55, 16%): 

  • Of those who died as a result of hanging, over one-half (59%) had a history of mental health problems. 

Trends from 2004 to 2015

In the 12-year period 2004–2015, a total of 7,422 poisoning deaths and deaths among drug users met the criteria for inclusion in the NDRDI database. The number of deaths increased by 61% during this period, from 431 in 2004 to 695 in 2015.


Deaths among injectors

People who were injecting at the time of the incident that led to their death represented 8% of all drug-related deaths in 2015 (Table 2). Of these deaths: 

  • 93% were male.
  • 89% were poisoning deaths.
  • 52% died in Dublin city.
  • 94% of the poisoning deaths involved opiates. 

Of those injectors who died in 2015 of a poisoning death which involved opiates:

  • 40% were not alone at the time of the incident that led to their death.
  • 20% injected in a public place.
  • 27% involved a single opiate type drug.

1  Health Research Board (2017) National Drug-Related Deaths Index 2004 to 2015 data. Dublin: Health Research Board. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/28086/ 

Repository Staff Only: item control page