STATISTICS revealing that the number of males dying from drug-related causes has almost doubled in the last ten years have come “no surprise” to a Tyrone-based drug awareness organisation.
The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) data published this week show that 136 of the 16,036 deaths registered in the North in 2017 were from drug-related causes. This is 60-per-cent more than was recorded a decade ago (86). Out of the 136 recorded deaths within the last ten years, 101 were male.
In contrast, female drug-related deaths in 2017 have remained unchanged (35) when compared with the 2007 total.
Breakthru Manager, Bernadette McHugh, which provides a widespread drug and alcohol awareness service throughout the Omagh area, said the misuse of prescription medications is an increasing concern.
She said, “The statistics are not surprising and we are aware of the growing problem of drug use and in particular the misuse of prescription medications. Poly drug use would appear to be commonplace and it is this cocktail of substances which is dangerous and potentially fatal.
“This is a problem affecting all of Northern Ireland and the need for a multiagency approach and services based in and available at community level is imperative.
“Our work in Omagh and Fermanagh focuses on some of the most vulnerable young people in these communities and we also work in areas of deprivation where deaths from both drugs and alcohol are known to be higher than least deprived areas.”
The NISRA statistics also revealed the largest number of drug-related deaths occurred in those aged between 25 and 34 years (37-per-cent), with less than four per-cent occurring in those aged 65 and over.
While 40 of the deaths had one drug listed on the death certificate, 62 listed three or more drugs.
The statistics also highlighted the rising number of deaths where Pregabalin was listed on the death certificate, with numbers increasing from eight in 2016 to 33 in 2017. there was also an increase in deaths involving the controlled drug Diazepam.
Some 81-per-cent of drug-related deaths were classed as drug-misuse deaths, compared to 56-per-cent in 2007.
The statistics also indicate that 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.