DRUG-RELATED deaths are continuing to fall with the biggest drop among heroin users.
But according to new figures, it was a legal drug – alcohol – that was responsible for a quarter of all the deaths and implicated in almost half of poisonings.
A death by poisoning is directly due to the toxic effect of the presence in the body of one or more drugs and other substances.
Other non-poisoning deaths can be related to HIV, the harmful effects of drug use on the health of the user, risky behaviour and accidents that happen under the influence, as well as suicide.
Overall, the annual number of drug-related fatalities among drug users in Ireland went down from 652 in 2009 to 575 in 2010.
The number of deaths in which heroin was implicated had the biggest drop – down 39pc to 115 in 2009, according to the Health Research Board report.
It found the number of deaths by poisonings has been falling since 2007.
"In addition to the large drop in heroin-implicated deaths in 2010, the number of cocaine-related deaths has fallen by 70pc since 2007."
There were with 20 cocaine-related deaths in 2010, compared to 66 in 2007.
Alcohol was implicated in almost half of all poisonings, which is more than any other drug or substance.
"Alcohol alone was responsible for 24pc of deaths followed by benzodiazepines – tranquillisers – which were the second most common drug group implicated in poisonings."
Men accounted for the majority (76pc) of poisonings in 2010 and the average age of those who died was 40 years.
"There was also a small decrease in the number of deaths among drug users, where death may be directly or indirectly linked to their use of the drug, such as trauma or medical causes.
"The number of deaths due to trauma decreased from 132 in 2009 to 112 in 2010. The most common causes in this category were hanging (46pc) or drowning (12pc)."
The report found that the majority of these cases were under 39 years of age and 38pc were men.
The number of deaths among drugs users as a result of medical causes remained stable in 2010, having increased progressively from 55 in 2004 to 131 in 2009.
The most common causes were cardiac events (26pc) and respiratory problems (12pc).
Dr Suzi Lyons, senior researcher for drug information systems at the Health Research Board, said: "The fall in the number of poisoning deaths reflects a wider international trend, which shows a decrease in drug-related deaths across Europe."