Nearly 700 people died as result of poisoning, trauma or medical causes linked to drug use in 2014
New figures show that nearly two people die in Ireland every day from drug-related causes.
The figures from the Health Research Board (HRB) show the number of drug-related deaths in Ireland rose by 62% between 2004 and 2014.
A total of 697 people died as result of poisoning, trauma or medical causes linked to drug use in 2014.
Merchant’s Quay Ireland (MQI), a charity organisation working with homeless people and drug users has called for urgent action in the wake of the publication of the figures.
The charity said the figures show that drug overdose and death have become a daily reality facing drug users and their families up and down the country with Ireland continuing to have one of the highest drug mortality rates in the EU.
Mark Kennedy, Head of Day Services at the charity said the figures are “not a surprise” as Ireland has consistently experienced over six hundred drug deaths a year since the HRB first began releasing the figures in 2004.
“Behind each of these tragic deaths there are partners, friends and mothers left to mourn their loved ones,” he said.
“This grief leaves a lifelong emotional scar on families and communities in towns and villages all around Ireland.”
Two in every three people died as a result of taking a mixture of drugs, with an average of four drugs involved.
Prescription drugs were involved in three out of every four drug poisonings during the period studied - with opiates the main drug group involved.
Alcohol remains the single most common drug implicated in deaths with drink involved in one-in-three drug-related deaths in 2014.
Cocaine related deaths jumped by 25% between 2013 and 2014.
Dr Graham Love, Chief Executive at the HRB said it is not just illicit drugs that are causing death.
“Over time we are seeing a rise in the number of deaths involving prescription drugs and cocktails of different drugs,” he said. “Mixing drugs increases the risk of death, which is clearly reflected in these figures.”
MQI said the people dying are predominantly men in their 30s and 40s with a long history of substance abuse.
The charity has highlighted a range of interventions that could reduce drug deaths - including the introduction of medically supervised injecting centres and “addressing drug problems from a public-health rather than a criminal-justice perspective.”