The National Family Support Network said many members of these families “cannot mourn” as they may feel a “sense of shame”, either because of the way their loved one passed away or as a result of the reaction of other people.
Speaking at its annual service of commemoration and hope, Sadie Grace, the organisation’s co-ordinator, also called on the Government to provide additional funding to assist these families.
The multi-denominational service was held last night at Our Lady of Lourdes Church on Seán McDermott St, in Dublin’s north inner city. The event, which attracted families from all over the country, was attended by President Michael D Higgins, minister of state at the Department of Justice Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, and Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin Éamonn Walsh.
Ms Grace said the National Drug-Related Deaths Index showed that the number of such deaths reached 679 in 2013, the highest number since the index was set up.
She said that increases in drug use and drug-related deaths had resulted in a dramatic rise in the number of families mourning the loss of a loved one.
“Many family members believe they cannot mourn the loss of their loved ones as they may feel a sense of shame by the manner in which their family member passed away or their grief may not be acknowledged by others,” said Ms Grace.
The National Drug-Related Deaths Index for 2013 translated to, on average, 13 deaths every week, directly or indirectly from illegal drugs, prescribed pills, and alcohol.
The number of deaths was more than three and a half times the number of road fatalities in the same year (188).
The index records a steady increase in recent years, from 609 in 2010, to 657 in 2011 and to 658 in 2012, before jumping in 2013.
The drugs most implicated in the deaths are opiates (heroin and methadone), benzodiazepines (prescribed tranquillisers), and alcohol.
Last week, Mr Ó Ríordáin said it was a “massive crisis” and more needed to be done to reduce fatalities. He has spearheaded plans to establish the country’s first ever medically-supervised injecting centre, which is expected to cut the number of street overdoses.
Last December, the Cabinet gave the green light to the proposal, but it is unlikely to progress any further until a new administration is formed.
Mr Ó Ríordáin said last week there should be a dedicated drugs strategy minister, with a “much bigger budget”. He said he had “a lot of other responsibilities” with his brief also including culture, new communities, and equality.
The ceremony was the 17th annual service and featured a performance by the Dublin Gospel Choir.
Ms Grace reminded people affected by this issue that there is help out there — but urged the authorities to give more funding to it.
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