Heroin use deaths soar but drink is main killer
THE number of deaths from heroin use has more than trebled since records began.
And the number of drug users dying from cocaine is falling.
However, alcohol still accounts for the vast majority of deaths among drug users and was responsible for just over 40pc of all such deaths in the six years from 2004 to 2009.
Latest figures from the Health Research Board's (HRB) National Drug-Related Deaths Index show that 108 addicts died after taking heroin in 2009, up by 20pc from the year before.
There were 638 drug-related deaths in 2009 and heroin accounted for one-fifth of these.
The number of addicts dying from heroin has been rising steadily since the HRB began recording drug-related deaths in 2004.
In that year there were 29 deaths from heroin. This has more than trebled by 2008 and increased further in 2009.
Meanwhile, the number of cocaine-related deaths is dropping with 52 deaths in 2009, down from a high of 67 in 2007.
There has been 51pc increase in the number of drug-related deaths since the HRB began compiling the index. There were 422 such deaths in 2004, compared to 638 in 2009.
The index breaks down deaths into those related to poisoning -- the toxic effect of the presence of a drug in a user's body -- and deaths due to trauma or medical causes.
More than half of all deaths were due to drug poisoning, while of the rest the most common causes of death were hanging and cardiac arrest. Other causes included choking, road traffic collisions, falls, drownings and fires.
Among the 357 people who died of poisoning, just over half had used more than one substance.
Dr Suzi Lyons, senior researcher at the HRB, said the rise in the number of deaths arising from heroin use was a cause for concern.
"While the most recent figures suggest a stabilisation in the overall number of drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users, we have still seen a significant rise in these deaths in Ireland over the last six years,'' Dr Lyons said.
"The inclusion of alcohol-only poisonings in the figures highlights the detrimental impact of alcohol in drug-related deaths, while the rise in the number of deaths where heroin is implicated is also of concern," the research board doctor added.