Last Decade Sees Male Drug-Related Deaths Increase By 98%

The amount of men in Northern Ireland losing their lives in drug-related deaths has increased by 98% in ten years, it has emerged.

The figures released by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) showed that 74% of all drug-related deaths in the region are of males, with nearly two men passing away as a direct result of drug abuse each week.

The number of women dying after taking drugs remains unchanged ten years on.

Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton, Chair of the Organised Crime Task Force's Drugs sub-group said the statistics display Northern Ireland's "growing problem" with potentially fatal drug misuse.

He commented: "When we talk about drug misuse and related deaths people often assume that we must mean illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine and ecstasy. Whilst these drugs cause serious harm and can be fatal, the majority of deaths in Northern Ireland are due to the misuse of a variety of prescription medicines, often with alcohol and illicit drugs.
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"The loss of a loved one is heart breaking for families. The harm and hurt caused by drug misuse is cross cutting and impacts people's lives at every level in Northern Ireland. The causes, complexity and pervasiveness of drug misuse and the harm it causes means that no one agency can tackle it alone. It is vital that we continue to work together using a coordinated, partnership-based approach that recognises the common goals we all share- to keep people safe by reducing crime, improving life chances and protecting the most vulnerable."

Meanwhile, Alliance MLA and spokesperson for health, Paula Bradshaw, said the shocking figures show the need to prioritise mental well-being services and to reallocate resources to therapeutic counselling services.

The south Belfast MLA said the level of male deaths related to drugs "absolutely cannot be tolerated any longer".

"Too many lives are being lost too young, and too many families are suffering," Ms Bradshaw commented.

"We need to take the opportunity offered by transformation of health and social care to ensure counselling can be accessed in a timely manner and therapeutic services are immediately available. Not to deliver these causes a crippling impact on the Health Service and, more importantly, on individuals and families.

"Too often people are left to face hugely challenging health conditions and challenges alone, without the requisite support, and there remains a stigma around opening up about the impact. Levels of drugs and alcohol-related deaths, and of suicide, are far too high and yet we still see political leaders shirking their responsibility to manage the transformation process to tackle them. Too many people are paying too high a price."


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