Northern Ireland

Male drug-related deaths up 98% in Northern Ireland

Drugs in hand Image copyright PA
Image caption Men's drug-related deaths have doubled in a decade

Drug-related deaths among males in Northern Ireland have almost doubled in the last 10 years, according to new government figures.

The number of males dying from drug-related causes increased by 98% between 2007 and 2017.

Statistics published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) on Monday show 101 of 136 drug-related deaths in 2017 were males.

This accounts for 74% of all drug-related deaths.

In contrast, the number of female drug-related deaths remained unchanged - at 35 - over the past decade.

Drug-related deaths continue to account for less than 1% of total deaths registered in Northern Ireland each year. There were 16,036 deaths registered in Northern Ireland in 2017.

Although the latest overall drug-death figure of 136 is 60% higher than 2017, it is lower that the total number of deaths in 2015 (144), which was the highest on record.

In an interview with BBC News NI one mother has spoken about her son's battle with heroin and prescription drugs.

Pregablin quadruples

As in previous years, the largest number of drug-related deaths in 2017 occurred in those aged between 25 and 34 years old (37%), with less than 4% occurring in those over 65.

Almost one third of drug-related death certificates listed one drug, while 46% (62) of death certificates listed three or more drugs.

Pregablin-related deaths quadrupled between 2016 in 2017 - with the drug listed on 33 death certificates in 2017 compared to eight in 2016 - while 40% of all drug-related deaths in 2017 involved the controlled drug Diazepam, compared with 24% in 2007.

In 2017, 81% of drug-related deaths were classed as drug-misuse deaths, compared to 56% in 2007.

The statistics also indicate that there are notably higher numbers of drug-related deaths in areas of deprivation across Northern Ireland.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Det Supt Bobby Singleton said the statistics were evidence that Northern Ireland has a growing problem with potentially fatal drug misuse

People living in the most deprived areas are four times more likely to die from a drug-related death than those in the least deprived areas.

PSNI Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton, chair of the Organised Crime Task Force's Drugs sub-group, said the statistics were evidence that Northern Ireland has a growing problem with potentially fatal drug misuse.

Prescription medicines

He said there was a common assumption that drug related deaths are linked to illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine and ecstasy.

"Whilst these drugs cause serious harm and can be fatal, the majority of deaths in Northern Ireland are due to the misuse of a variety of prescription medicines, often with alcohol and illicit drugs," he said.

"The loss of a loved one is heart breaking for families. The harm and hurt caused by drug misuse is cross cutting and impacts people's lives at every level in Northern Ireland.

"The causes, complexity and pervasiveness of drug misuse and the harm it causes means that no one agency can tackle it alone.

"It is vital that we continue to work together using a coordinated, partnership-based approach that recognises the common goals we all share - to keep people safe by reducing crime, improving life chances and protecting the most vulnerable."

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