26/02/2009

NI Drug Deaths Double

The number of drug related deaths registered each year has more than doubled over the last decade rising from 39 deaths in 1997 to 86 last year.

The 86 fatalities were registered in Northern Ireland where the cause of death was drug related, either due to legal or illegal drugs.

This finding is contained in a report published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

The report also indicates that over the last decade the median age at death for drug related deaths was 40 years, 38 years less than the overall median age at death of 78 years.

Drugs commonly associated with drug addiction such as heroin and cocaine are mentioned on fewer death certificates than drugs such as amphetamines, benzodiazepines and antidepressants.
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The report indicates that of the drug related deaths registered last year, 21 had diazepam recorded on the death certificate; 20 had antidepressants recorded; 16 had codeine recorded; 10 had heroin/morphine recorded; eight had paracetamol recorded; five had MDMA/Ecstasy recorded on the death certificate; and three had cocaine recorded on the death certificate.

In some cases death certificates may have more than one drug mentioned and some occasional death certificates which are drug related have no specific drugs mentioned.

The number of drug related deaths is higher for males than females, with males accounting for 60% of drug related deaths between 1997 and 2007.

In 2007, nearly two-thirds (62%) of drug related deaths were due to either intentional self-poisoning (45%) or events of undetermined intent (16%).

In addition accidental poisoning accounted for a further 33% of drug related deaths.

The remaining 6% of drug related deaths were due to mental and behavioural disorders due to drug use.

The definition of a drug related death used in this report is when the cause of death recorded on the death certificate is drug poisoning, drug abuse or drug dependence.

This definition is in common use across the United Kingdom.

The figures presented relate to both legal and illegal drugs and thus will include deaths related for example to paracetamol or cocaine.

(BMcC)

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