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Almost 640 drug-related deaths in Ireland, latest figures show

Heroin-related deaths increased by 20 per cent in 2009, according to the Health Research Board National Drug-Related Deaths Index, but alcohol is still a major factor in deaths of drug users.

File photo of a heroin seizure in Dublin
File photo of a heroin seizure in Dublin
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland.

THE NUMBER OF heroin-related deaths in Ireland increased by 20 per cent in 2009 – and the number of cocaine-related deaths dropped slightly.

The figures come from the Health Research board and its National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI).

Dr Suzi Lyons, senior researcher at the HRB said:

While the most recent figures suggest a stabilisation in the overall number of drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users, we have still seen a significant rise in these deaths in Ireland over the last six years. The inclusion of alcohol-only poisonings in the figures highlights the detrimental impact of alcohol in drug-related deaths, while the rise in the number of deaths where heroin is implicated is also of concern.

The index showed the number of deaths remained stable between 2008 (641) and 2009 (638).

However, when looked at over a six-year period, the number of deaths increased by 51 per cent – from 422 in 2004 to 638 in 2009.

The NDRDI is an epidemiological database which records cases of death by drug and alcohol poisoning, and deaths among drug users and those who are alcohol dependent.

Just over half of all poisoning deaths (51 per cent) involved more than one substance.

When it came to heroin, the number of deaths in which this drug was implicated rose by 20 per cent to 108, compared to 90 in 2008, the index shows.

Heroin was implicated in 21 per cent of all poisoning deaths between 2004 and 2009.

The index figures now also include alcohol-only poisonings, and it has emerged after updating the figures that alcohol was a factor in 40 per cent of all poisoning deaths between 2004 and 2009.

Sixty-eight per cent of those who died from alcohol/drugs poisoning were male.

Most of the people who died by poisoning were between the age of 25 and 44 and half were 37 years of age or under.

When it came to deaths among drug users that were not due to drink or drugs, and instead were due to traumatic or medical causes, these rose to 281 in 2009 from 260 in 2008.

This number increased by 81 per cent over the six years, from 155 in 2004 to 281 in 2009.

Of these non-poisoning deaths in 2009, over half (157) were due to trauma, compared to 142 in 2008.

The main cause of deaths due to trauma was hanging.

Meanwhile, the number of deaths due to medical causes rose to 124 in 2009 from 111 in 2008, and the main medical cause of death was a cardiac event.

Read: Health Research Board (2011) Drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users in Ireland: 2009 figures from the National Drug-Related Deaths Index>

Read: Addicts drinking hand sanitiser to get alcohol fix>

Read: Irish-grown cannabis more potent than imported variety – report>

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