Huge rise in NI drug deaths since 2007, figures show

Drug paraphernalia
Drug paraphernalia

The number of men dying because of drugs has almost doubled since 2007.

Figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) show a 98% increase in the number of males dying from drug-related causes in Northern Ireland in the last 10 years.

Detective Superintendent Robert Singleton.'Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

Detective Superintendent Robert Singleton.'Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

The PSNI say the figures are evidence that drug misuse is a “growing problem” here.

Overall, 136 of the 16,036 deaths registered in Northern Ireland in 2017 were from drug-related causes, the NISRA figures show.

This is 60% more than was recorded a decade ago (86) but lower than the total in 2015 (144), which was also the highest on record.

Men account for around three quarters (74%) of all drug deaths in 2017 with 101 in total, almost double the figure of 51 recorded in 2007.

In contrast, female drug-related deaths in 2017 have remained unchanged (35) when compared with the 2007 total.

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

NISRA say the statistics “also indicate that there are notably higher numbers of drug-related deaths in areas of deprivation across Northern Ireland”.

Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton, chair of the PSNI’s organised crime task force’s drugs sub-group, said: “The publication of these official statistics provides evidence that demonstrates our shared concern that Northern Ireland has a growing problem with potentially fatal drug misuse.

“When we talk about drug misuse and related deaths people often assume that we must mean 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 continued: “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.”