Male drug related deaths almost double within a decade

PSNI Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton, Chair of the Organised Crime Task Force's Drugs sub-group.
PSNI Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton, Chair of the Organised Crime Task Force's Drugs sub-group.

The number of males dying from drug-related causes in Northern Ireland has increased by 98% in the last 10 years, it has emerged.

This is one of the findings of the statistics published today by the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

The statistics show that 136 of the 16,036 deaths registered in Northern Ireland in 2017 were from drug-related causes. This is 60% more than was recorded a decade ago (86) but lower than the total in 2015 (144), which was also the highest on record.

Drug-related deaths continue to account for less than 1% of total deaths registered in Northern Ireland each year.

A total of 74% (101) of the 136 drug-related deaths registered in Northern Ireland in 2017 were males. This is almost twice as many as recorded a decade ago (51).

In contrast, female drug-related deaths in 2017 have remained unchanged (35) when compared with the 2007 total.

As in previous years, the largest number of drug-related deaths occurred in those aged between 25 and 34 years (37%), with less than 4% occurring in those aged 65 and over.

30% (40) of drug-related deaths had one drug listed on the death certificate, while 46% (62) of deaths listed three or more drugs. 2017 saw four times more deaths where Pregabalin was listed on the death certificate, with numbers increasing from 8 in 2016 to 33 in 2017.

81% of drug-related deaths were classed as drug-misuse deaths, compared to 56% in 2007. 40% of all drug-related deaths in 2017 involved the controlled drug Diazepam, compared with 24% in 2007.

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 four times more likely to die from a drug-related death than those in the least deprived areas.

Commenting on the release of the NISRA drugs related death statistics, PSNI Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton, Chair of the Organised Crime Task Force’s Drugs sub-group, said today; “The publication of these official statistics provides evidence that demonstrates our shared concern that Northern Ireland has a growing problem with potentially fatal drug misuse.

“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.

“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.”