One person a month on average is dying from drug related causes in Donegal, according to new figures.
Details released this week by the Health Research Board show there were 65 deaths by drug poisoning and among drug users living in Co. Donegal between 2004 and 2009.
Of the deaths, 43 were due to poisoning and 22 were due to traumatic or medical causes. Alcohol alone was the cause of death in 28% of poisoning deaths over the six-year period and over half the deaths (54%), were due to single substance poisoning. The data, which was collected for the National Drug Related Death Index (NRDI), shows that men accounted for 68% of the deaths.
The average age for those who died of poisoning deaths over the six-year period, 2004-2009, was 47 years. The average age for those who died of non-poisoning deaths over the six-year period 2004-2009 was 41 years. The majority (86%) were male and deaths due to trauma accounted for 73% of non-poisoning deaths.
The NRDI also shows that poisoning deaths in the north west, Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim and north west Cavan, have been increasing in recent years - with eight in 2007, 12 in 2008 and 16 in 2009.
The recent figures show an increasing problem with drugs and alcohol which reflects the picture presented by other studies. The HSE says treatment for alcohol and drugs in Donegal has risen over the past five years and recent research in the county shows that alcohol related brain injury is an emerging area of concern with up to possibly 40 cases presenting annually in the North West.
Eammon O’Kane, Director of the Alcohol Forum, which has offices in Donegal and Sligo, said the figures showed the extent of alcohol abuse in Donegal. He said factors affecting the problem with alcohol and substance abuse in the county include the higher levels of social deprivation and the availability of cheap alcohol from across the border.
“Nationally one person dies every seven hours from alcohol abuse alone,” he said.
“The figures correlate with other studies recently. Donegal has the third highest figure nationally for presentation to HSE addiction services for both alcohol and substances. We also know from another report that Donegal has the second-highest rate nationally for admissions for all alcoholic disorders to psychiatric units.
“This report reinforces the continuing need to put a concerted effort into tackling and changing the local attitudes to drugs and alcohol, because all these studies show that we are at the worrying end of league tables that we don’t want to be at the top of.”