Northern Ireland records highest drug death total

Northern Ireland has recorded its highest level of drug-related deaths, according to figures published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

There were 189 drug-related deaths registered in 2018, 39 per cent higher than 2017 and more than double the level of a decade ago. Recent drug death figures from Scotland, and England and Wales, have also been the highest ever recorded (DDN, September 2019, page 4). 

Graph showing rise in drug related deaths in Northern Ireland

More than 85 per cent of Northern Ireland’s drug fatalities were classed as drug misuse deaths, up from less than 60 per cent a decade ago. Half of the deaths were of men aged between 25 and 44, with men accounting for 70 per cent of the overall total. 

Half of the deaths recorded in 2018 involved three or more drugs, with 115 mentioning an opioid on the death certificate. More than 40 per cent mentioned diazepam, while deaths involving cocaine rose from just 13 in 2017 to 28, the highest level recorded. The number of deaths mentioning pregabalin has also risen significantly, up from nine in 2016 to 33 in 2017 and 54 last year. More than a fifth of death certificates also mentioned alcohol. 

People living in the most deprived areas were five times more likely to suffer a drug-related death than those in the least deprived, said NISRA.

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