Northern Ireland news

More than 200 drug-related deaths in 2021, statistics reveal

Since 2011, over half of drug-related deaths each year have involved an opioid. In 2021, 126 drug-related deaths had an opioid mentioned on the death certificate
Jonathan McCambridge, PA

There were 212 drug-related deaths registered in Northern Ireland last year, newly released statistics have revealed.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) figures showed that almost three quarters of drug-related deaths in 2021 were men.

The total has decreased slightly from 218 in 2020, but is more than double the death rate recorded a decade before in 2011, when the total was 102.

In terms of all deaths registered in Northern Ireland in 2021, drug-related deaths accounted for 1.2% of the total.

Males accounted for 156 of the deaths registered.

From the recorded deaths, 66 were in the 25-34 age group with a further 51 in the 35-44 age group.

The majority (82.1%) of all drug-related deaths in 2021 were classed as drug misuse deaths. This means the underlying cause is drug poisoning, drug abuse or drug dependence or where any of the substances controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act are involved.

Nisra said more than two-thirds of the drug-related deaths in 2021 involved two or more drugs.

Since 2011, over half of drug-related deaths each year have involved an opioid. In 2021, 126 drug-related deaths had an opioid mentioned on the death certificate.

Heroin and morphine were the most frequently mentioned opioids in 2021, connected to 39 drug-related deaths, a decrease from the peak of 55 in 2020.

The second most commonly mentioned drugs on death certificates were benzodiazepines, cited in relation to more than half of drug-related deaths.

Diazepam was involved in 25.5% of all drug-related deaths in 2021.

Drug-related deaths involving pregabalin have risen consistently since its first mention in the statistics in 2013. The annual number of deaths involving this controlled substance rose from one in 2013, to a peak of 77 in 2019, but reduced slightly to 71 in 2021.

The number of drug-related deaths involving cocaine fell slightly from 36 in 2020 to 32 in 2021.

The proportion of all drug-related deaths that also mentioned alcohol on the death certificate increased from 30 in 2020 to 46 in 2021.

The statistics also indicate that there are markedly higher numbers of drug-related deaths in areas of deprivation across Northern Ireland.

Nisra said there were five times the number of drug-related deaths registered in the 20% most deprived areas in Northern Ireland in 2021 compared with the number of drug-related deaths in the 20% least deprived areas.

Northern Ireland news