Drug-related and drug-misuse deaths in Northern Ireland, 2011-2021

Date published: 24 November 2022

A report and tables on Drug-related and drug-misuse deaths in Northern Ireland, 2011-2021 were released at 9.30am today.

This report presents statistics on Northern Ireland (NI) drug-related mortality in 2021.  Figures are based on deaths registered in NI that are known to be drug-related or a direct consequence of drug misuse.

Key points

  • The number of drug-related deaths registered in Northern Ireland in 2021 (212) was the second highest on record, six less than the 2020 peak of 218 deaths. The same was true for drug-misuse deaths, decreasing from the series high of 182 in 2020 to a second highest total of 174 in 2021.
  • Almost three-quarters (73.6%) of drug related deaths in 2021 were accounted for by men.
  • Drug-related death rates were highest among the 25-34 age group (26.9 deaths per 100,000 people).
  • Opioids are consistently the most commonly mentioned type of drugs on death certificates, mentioned in 59.4% of drug-related deaths. However, the number of drug-related deaths involving psychoactive substances increased notably from 51 in 2020 to 73 in 2021.
  • The number of drug-related deaths where alcohol was also mentioned increased from 30 in 2020 to 46 in 2021.
  • Over two-thirds (68.4%) of drug-related deaths in 2021 involved two or more drugs. In contrast in 2011, 52.9% of drug-related deaths involved two or more drugs.
  • Belfast HSCT and Belfast LGD had the highest age-standardised rate of drug-related deaths per 100,000 population – 19.2 and 21.1 respectively. Drug-related and drug-misuse deaths continue to be higher in areas of highest deprivation.
  • In the context of the UK in 2021, Scotland had the highest age-standardised rate of drug-misuse deaths at 25.0, Northern Ireland had the second highest rate at 9.4, and England and Wales had a rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 population.

The full report and tables are available from the Drug-related deaths webpage.

If you would like to receive alerts about Vital Statistics releases, please email demography@nisra.gov.uk

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