Deaths Data

The National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI) provides information about the number of deaths by drug and alcohol poisoning; and deaths among drug users and people who are alcohol dependent in Ireland.

New preliminary figures from the Health Research Board (HRB) on drug-related deaths show there were 409 poisoning deaths in 2020.* There were also 397 non-poisoning deaths, with hanging the most common cause of these deaths. The findings were presented at the Citizens Assembly on Drug Use on Saturday 24 June 2023.

Key findings 

  • 409 deaths were poisonings and 8 in 10 of these deaths involved more than one drug
  • 7 in 10 involved opioids. Methadone was implicated in 3 in 10 poisoning deaths and heroin was implicated 2 in 10 poisoning cases
  • Almost 6 in 10 involved benzodiazepines and many of them had more than one type of benzodiazepine
  • 3 in 10 involved cocaine
  • 2 in 10 involved alcohol (as part of a poly drug poisoning)
  • Almost 6 in 10 involved other prescription drugs, most commonly antidepressants and antiepileptics

 Socio-demographic characteristics of people who died from poisoning 

  • More than 6 in 10 were male
  • More than half of men were aged 42 years or younger
  • More than half of women were aged 45 years or younger
  • Half had a history of mental health issues
  • 1 in 8 were homeless
  • 1 in 5 had ever injected
  • In 4 in 10 of poisoning deaths, the person was alone
  • 11% died in homeless accommodation
  • 9% died in a public place or building 

There were 397 non-poisoning deaths among people with a history of drug use. These were primarily the result of hanging or cardiac events. A quarter (108) of non-poisoning deaths  were as a result hanging. Of those, two thirds had a history of mental health issues. These findings represent nearly 12,000 potential life years lost because of poisoning deaths and more than 10,000 potential life years lost because of non-poisoning deaths in just one year. 

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The most recent complete bulletin was published in December 2019.

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The Irish NDRDI records cases of death by drug and/or alcohol poisoning (such as those due to accidental or intentional overdose), and deaths among drug users and those who are alcohol dependent (such as those due to hepatitis C and HIV). The NDRDI is maintained by the Health Research Board. It is jointly funded by the Department of Health and the Department of Justice and Equality.  

The information is used to develop health and social service responses aimed at reducing the number of deaths. The number of drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users is one of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction key indicators to measure the consequences of drug use. The National Drug-Related Death Index Steering Committee provides advice to the researchers on the development of the data collection protocol, the methodology for interpreting inconclusive cases, and pathology and toxicology 

Staff from the NDRDI collect data from Coroner Service files relating to all deaths among alcohol dependent person, all deaths where a history of drug use was recorded or where drug or alcohol misuse was implicated in the death. Data from the other agencies is collected in electronic format. 

The data is collected from a number of sources, including:

  • The Coroner Service;
  • The General Mortality Register;
  • The Central Treatment List;
  • HIPE  

The information collected includes:

  • Administrative details
  • Demographic details
  • Socio-economic information
  • Problem drug use at the time of death
  • Risk behaviours
  • Drug treatment history
  • Details about the death itself
  • Medical diagnosis.

This information is used to define accurately the extent of the problem, to inform policy and to assess the effectiveness of responses aimed at preventing deaths from drug or alcohol misuse. The Health Research Board is the data controller with overall responsibility for the data.

For researchers, and all others requiring data, please complete the National Health Information Systems (NHIS) data request form and accept the terms and conditions for use of NDRDI data.

The form is a PDF in editable format and when filled out can be returned to: