Trebling of deaths linked to drug use
MORE than 230 drug users have hanged themselves or drowned over an eight-year period, according to research.
The study shows the total number of deaths linked to drug use has trebled – from 63 in 1998 to 167 in 2005.
Health experts said this reflects greater drug use among people and an increase in risky behaviour.
In groundbreaking research into what are called non-poisoning deaths, a total of 885 drug users have died between 1998 and 2005. This includes 67 drug users aged between 15 and 19 and 144 aged between 20 and 24.
The death toll of 885 includes 476 traumatic deaths, such as suicide, road traffic accidents and shootings, and 270 medical deaths, such as liver disease and cardiac arrest. These indirect deaths are in addition to the 1,553 deaths due to poisonings, or direct deaths caused by the toxic effects of drugs themselves.
The Health Research Board (HRB), which conducted the detailed work, said the number of traumatic deaths doubled, from 39 in 1998 to 83 in 2005.
Dr Suzi Lyons, senior researcher at the HRB, said the high number of road traffic collisions involving drugs was "further evidence of the need" to expand forensic analysis, including a reliable road-side test.
Dr Lyons said that the vast majority of traumatic deaths tested positive for drugs, but stressed this did not necessarily mean that the substance contributed to the death.
* Alcohol was present in almost two-thirds of cases, while cannabis was the illegal drug most commonly found.
* Cannabis, heroin and cocaine were found in greatest proportions in deaths due to violence.
* Ecstasy (MDMA) was found in the greatest proportion in RTC deaths.
Dr Lyons said many of the deaths by hanging or drowning were positive for alcohol, cannabis, benzodiazepines (minor tranquillisers) and anti-depressants.
She said that the presence of anti-depressants suggested they were in treatment for a mental health condition.
By Cormac O’Keeffe
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2009