Press Release

Drug Related Deaths Figures highlight the importance of a public health approach to drug and alcohol misuse – Minister Catherine Byrne

Press Release Friday 8th March 2019

Drug Related Deaths Figures highlight the importance of a public health approach to drug and alcohol misuse – Minister Catherine Byrne

Noting the publication today of the National Drug Related Deaths Index, the Minister for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne, T.D. said;

“The 2016 figures for drug-related deaths (736) are deeply concerning. They represent tragic loss of life and are a stark reminder of the devastating impact of drugs on families and communities.

These figures highlight the importance of a public health approach to drug and alcohol misuse, as set out the in Government’s National Drugs Strategy. In line with this approach, the HSE National Service Plan 2019 prioritises the expansion of community-based healthcare services to minimise the harms from the misuse of substances and to promote recovery”.

Noting that 34 deaths were among people who inject drugs, with the majority of these in Dublin city, the Minister said;

“These figures emphasise the need for a Supervised Injecting Facility. I am acutely aware of the harm caused by injecting drugs. Those who inject on the streets are at even greater risk. The Supervised Injecting Facility, when up and running, will be a major step towards reducing deaths from drug overdose. The facility is Government policy and it is crucial that it opens as soon as possible”.

The Minister acknowledged the contribution of alcohol to one-in-three of all poisonings;

“The Government is actively tackling alcohol as a public health issue. The Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 aims to reduce harmful drinking and to create an environment where children won’t be exposed to alcohol products or advertising. From November 2019, the Act will prohibit alcohol advertising at public transport stops or stations and within 200m of a school, early years centre or a local authority playground”.

The Minister also expressed her concern about non-poisoning deaths as a result of trauma or medical reasons among people who use drugs. In particular, she noted that among the 93 people who died by hanging, 75% had a known history of mental health problems. To address this issue, the Department of Health has resourced the HSE to develop an integrated mental health and addiction programme among at risk groups, with funding of over €1 million in 2019, rising to over €2 million in 2020. This new programme will expand mental health services for people with addiction in hospitals and in communities.

ENDS