05:45am Monday 25 May 2020

Health Research Board figures show 638 drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users in Ireland in 2009

The number of deaths remained stable between 2008 and 2009. There were 638* deaths reported in 2009, compared to 641 in 2008. In the six-year period the number of deaths increased by 51%, from 422 in 2004 to 638 in 2009.

The number of deaths by poisoning in 2009 dropped slightly to 357, from 381 in 2008.

  • In 2009, the number of deaths in which heroin was implicated rose by 20% to 108, compared to 90 in 2008. Heroin was implicated in 21% of all deaths by poisoning between 2004 and 2009.
  • The number of deaths in which cocaine was implicated dropped for a second year, down to 52 in 2009 from a peak of 67 in 2007.
  • Just over half (51%) of all poisoning deaths involved more than one substance.  

Alcohol-only poisonings are now included in the NDRDI figures. The figures were updated retrospectively and show that alcohol was involved in 40% of all poisoning deaths in the six-year period, more than any other substance.

Other key findings from the 2009 data on poisoning deaths include:

  • Men accounted for 68% of deaths.
  • The majority of those who died by poisoning were aged between 25 and 44 years.
  • Half of those who died were aged 37 years or under.

The number of deaths among drug users that were due to traumatic or medical causes (non-poisoning deaths) rose to 281* in 2009 from 260 in 2008.  The number increased by 81% over the six years, from 155 in 2004 to 281 in 2009.

Of the 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.  

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

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 full paper, Health Research Board (2011) Drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users in Ireland: 2009 figures from the National Drug-Related Deaths Index is available at www.drugsandalcohol.ie/16365 or www.hrb.ie   Ends  

* The 2009 figures are likely to be revised upwards when new data become available. 

For further information contact:

Justin Bowers, Keating & Associates: 087 279 0477 / [email protected]

Brian Cummins: 01 2345136 / 086 803 7551 / [email protected]

A printed copy of the paper is available on request.

Notes for editors  

The Irish National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI)

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.   The NDRDI was established in September 2005 to comply with Action 67 of the 2001–2008 National Drugs Strategy and is maintained by the Health Research Board (HRB). It is jointly funded by the Department of Health and the Department of Justice and Equality. The remit of the NDRDI was expanded in January 2006 to include alcohol-related deaths and deaths of people who were alcohol dependent. 

The number of drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users is one of the key indicators used to measure the consequences of problem drug use in Europe. The NDRDI enables accurate reporting of these key data to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). The NDRDI records data from four sources: the Coroner Service, the Hospital In-Patient Enquiry scheme (HIPE), the Central Treatment List (CTL), and the General Mortality Register (GMR).

The Health Research Board

The Health Research Board (HRB) was established in 1986. For the last 25 years it has been Ireland’s lead agency in supporting and funding health research. The HRB’s mission is to improve people’s health, patient care and health service through leading and supporting research and generating knowledge and promoting its application in policy and practice. The HRB has supported research which has played a key role in innovation in Ireland’s health system and its economic development.


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