Drugs deaths in Northern Ireland reach highest level
The number of drug-related deaths in Northern Ireland soared to 189 last year, according to official statistics.
The figure is 40% higher than 2017 (136), and has more than doubled over the last 10 years.
Figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency show that half of the deaths involved three or more drugs.
Heroin and morphine were connected to 40 of the deaths, the highest number on record.
This is despite calls from health officials for drug users not to mix drugs.
- Male drug-related deaths almost double
- Seven suspected drugs deaths in 10 days
- Getting heroin as 'easy' as cigarettes
The statistics also show that people living in deprived areas are five times more likely to die from a drug-related death.
Belfast SDLP councillor Paul McCusker has called for action to be taken.
"Failure to provide immediate treatment and pathways that aren't working are costing lives," he said.
"This isn't acceptable and it proves that a drug task force is needed to help reduce deaths. We can no longer wait."
The figures show that half of the 189 deaths were men ages 25-44.
Drug-related deaths involving cocaine increased to the highest level on record from 13 in 2017 to 28 in 2018.
The latest figure sees pregabalin appearing in 28.6% of all drug related deaths.
Almost 23% per cent of all drug-related deaths in 2018 also mentioned alcohol on the death certificate, a proportion which has remained relatively consistent over the last five years.