Drugs-related deaths more than double in a decade

Thu, 16/01/2020 - 15:41 -- Editor

There were 189 drug-related deaths registered in Northern Ireland in 2018. Half (95) of these deaths were of men aged 25-44.

These are some of the findings of the statistics published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

The 2018 total (189) is more than double that recorded a decade ago (89) and has risen by 39% over the year, from 136 in 2017. Drug-related deaths accounted for 10 deaths per 100,000 people in 2018. In terms of all deaths registered in Northern Ireland in 2018 (15,922), drug-related deaths accounted for 1.2% of the total.

The figures further show that between 2017 and 2018, the drug-related mortality rate increased for both males and females. The rate for males increased from 11 per 100,000 males to 14.4; for females the equivalent rate rose from 3.7 per 100,000 females to 5.9.  Males accounted for 70.4 per cent (133) of the 189 drug-related deaths registered in Northern Ireland in 2018.   

Of the 189 drug-related deaths in 2018, 72 (38.1%) were in the 25-34 age group with a further 50 (26.5%) in the 35-44 age group. These figures equate to age-specific, drug-related mortality rates of 29 deaths per 100,000 people, aged 25-34 and 20.9 deaths per 100,000 people, aged 35-44.

More than 85% (161) of all drug-related deaths in 2018 were classed as drug-misuse deaths, compared with 59.6 per cent (53) in 2008. The rate of death relating to drug-misuse increased from 3 deaths per 100,000 people in 2008 to 8.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 2018.

Half of drug-related deaths in 2018 involved three or more drugs. In contrast, in 2008 almost half of drug-related deaths involved one drug.

Since 2010, over half of drug-related deaths each year have involved an opioid.  In 2018, a total of 115 drug-related deaths had an opioid mentioned on the death certificate. Heroin and morphine were the most frequently mentioned opioids in 2018, connected to 40 drug-related deaths, up from 24 in 2017 and the highest number on record.

Drug-related deaths involving cocaine increased from 13 in 2017 to 28 in 2018 and is the highest level on record.

Diazepam was listed in 40.2% of all drug-related deaths in 2018, a similar proportion to that recorded in previous years. Drug-related deaths involving pregabalin, however, have risen consistently since its first appearance in these statistics in 2013; the annual number of deaths involving this controlled substance rose from 9 in 2016, to 33 in 2017 and 54 in 2018. The latest figure sees pregabalin appearing in 28.6% of all drug related deaths.

Almost 23% of all drug-related deaths in 2018 also mentioned alcohol on the death certificate, a proportion which has remained relatively consistent over the last five years.

The statistics also indicate that there are notably higher numbers of drug-related deaths in areas of deprivation across Northern Ireland.  People living in the most deprived areas are five times more likely to die from a drug-related death than those in the least deprived areas.