Press Release

New National Index will provide more accurate data in relation to Drug-Related Deaths

Mr Seán Power, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, today (26 September 2005) launched a new National Drug-Related Deaths Index.

The Index is being established to help deliver one of the key aims of the National Drugs Strategy, which highlights the need to gather better information about the drug issue and responses to it. This initiative will address in particular, Action 67, which identifies the need to develop an accurate mechanism for recording the number of drug-related deaths in Ireland.

The Index will be jointly funded by the Department of Health and Children, and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The information will be collected and analysed by the Health Research Board’s Drug Misuse Research Division. Data will be drawn from a number of sources including the General Mortality Register, the Coroner’s Service, the Hospital In-Patient Enquiry Scheme, and data from the Central Treatment List.

According to figures compiled by the Central Statistics Office, and published recently by the Health Research Board, more than 750 people died in Ireland as a direct result of drug misuse over the period from 1990 to 2002. The HRB report showed that the number of direct drug-related deaths increased substantially between 1994 and 2000 and decreased in 2001. Most of these deaths occurred in Dublin, and were concentrated in particular areas of economic and social disadvantage within Dublin. There has also been a steady increase in the number of deaths outside Dublin.

Current Irish statistics only record deaths that occur as a direct result of drug misuse. This means that there is no reliable measure of deaths that are indirectly related to drug use.

Speaking at the launch the Minister Power stated “In many cases, the connection between drug use and death may not be either identified or recorded. A death resulting from an infectious disease contracted through drug misuse, for example, may not feature in the current figures. There are clear concerns that our knowledge of the true cost of drug misuse through lost lives is not as comprehensive as it should be. This new index will be a significant step towards better quality data and improved accuracy on the true cause of death”.

The establishment of the Index will also bring Ireland to the forefront of EU-wide efforts on this issue in the context of the European Drugs Strategy. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) identifies “drug-related deaths and mortality among drug users” as one of the five key indicators of drug misuse in Europe.

Minister Power expressed his thanks to all those involved in bringing about the establishment of the Index. In particular, he thanked Citywide Family Support Network, which works for and on behalf of families dealing with drug use within the family for their efforts in organising the launch.