The unpublished data only refers to drug overdoses and does not include deaths resulting from action taken under the influence of drugs, medical consequences or other linked causes.
The figures show that the number of direct drug-related deaths has increased by 20% in the past three years.
Information extracted and collated by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in recent months reveals that 112 people died directly from drugs in 2004, compared to 93 in 2001.
“In 2003, the number of drug-related deaths increased marginally when compared to 2001 and 2002, with a further increase in 2004,” said Dr Jean Long, of the Health Research Board, who co-authored a report on the figures.
The data — which comes from the General Mortality Register — shows the bulk of the rise happened in 2004. Between 2001 and 2004, 60% of direct drug-related deaths were related to opiates, mainly heroin. There was a rise in cocaine deaths in that period. In 2000, two (1.8%) deaths were due to cocaine alone. This increased to nine (8%) in 2004.
Inquest reports since then suggest that the number of cocaine deaths may have risen further since 2004. However, no official figures exist yet.
Dr Long said the system of extracting information didn’t show the number of deaths where cocaine was a contributing, but not sole, cause of death.
“The coding system used does not allow one to extract data on cocaine and other drugs combined, therefore these figures are an underestimate of cocaine-related deaths,” she said.
The rise in deaths after 2001 followed a dramatic drop in deaths since 1999, when fatalities reached their peak with 122 victims.
This came after a sharp jump between 1995 and 1999, at the height of the heroin crisis.
Between 1984 and 1994 almost all direct drug-related deaths occurred in Dublin.
The number of such deaths almost trebled between 1995 and 1999, from 33 to 96.
Deaths outside Dublin emerged during that time, rising from three to 26.
Between 2000 and 2003, there was a sharp decline in deaths in Dublin, falling from 83 to 46.
There was a rise thereafter, when the number of deaths increased from 46 to 60. This is the first year, since 1999, of a rise in Dublin.
“Factors contributing to this trend may include, in addition to the increase in cocaine-related deaths, the ageing population among drug users and an increase in both the availability and purity of heroin reported in Europe generally,” said Dr Long.
The number of drug deaths outside Dublin exceeded those in Dublin for the first time in 2003, with 52 fatalities.