The number of drug-related deaths in Ireland increased rapidly between 1994 and 2000 but decreased in 2001, a report revealed today.
Most of the deaths were caused by opiates such as heroin and occurred in Dublin.
The first comprehensive report on the issue by the Health Research Board (HRB) found that 43 people died from drugs in 1995, rising to 119 in 2000. But the number of deaths fell to 88 in 2001 and rose slightly again to 91 in 2002.
The study found that there was an under-reporting problem, with the number of opiate-related deaths on the Dublin Coroners’ records consistently higher than those reported by the General Mortality Register.
HRB senior researcher Dr Jean Long said the report showed the need for more information on drug-related deaths.
“To date, deaths as an indirect result of drug use are not systematically documented and have only been assessed in small localised studies within Dublin,” she said.
The report found that 13% of drug-related deaths were associated with imprisonment or a recent release from prison.
“Opiate-related deaths account for the largest proportion of drug-related deaths, and 89% of opiate users who died tested positive for more than one drug,” said Dr Long.
Although the number of drug-related deaths in Dublin fell from 90 in 2000 to 55 in 2001, the number of drug-related deaths outside Dublin rose to 35 in 2002.