Drug-Related Deaths

The annual Drug-Related and Drug Misuse Deaths, Northern Ireland release presents statistics on the most recent official death registration data available on drug-specific mortality across Northern Ireland (NI).  Drug related death figures were first published in Northern Ireland in 2009 with a time series going back to 1997.  Figures in this release relate to deaths registered in Northern Ireland where the underlying cause of death indicated drug poisoning, abuse or dependence or a controlled drug was involved.


There are two standard definitions associated with drug-related mortality: 

Drug-Related Death

This is when the underlying cause of death recorded on the death certificate is drug poisoning, drug abuse or drug dependence.  These deaths can be identified solely through the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).  The current National Statistics definition and the ICD ninth (ICD-09) and ICD tenth (ICD-10) revision codes used to define drug-related deaths are given in Table 1.


Table 1: ICD9 and ICD10 codes relating to Drug-Related Deaths

ICD-10 Underlying Cause Code

ICD-09 Underlying Cause Code


F11–F16, F18–F19

292, 304, 305.2–305.9

Mental and behavioural disorders due to drug use (excluding alcohol and tobacco)



Accidental poisoning by drugs, medicaments and biological substances



Intentional self-poisoning by drugs, medicaments and biological substances



Assault by drugs, medicaments and biological substances



Poisoning by drugs, medicaments and biological substances, undetermined intent

The second definition is a subset of the definition above and relates to deaths due to; 

Drug-Misuse Death

Deaths classified as drug misuse must be a drug-related death and meet either one (or both) of the following conditions:

- the underlying cause is drug abuse or drug dependence, defined by ICD-10 as mental and behavioural disorders due to use of: opioids (F11), cannabinoids (F12), sedatives or hypnotics (F13), cocaine (F14), other stimulants, including caffeine (F15), hallucinogens (F16) and multiple drug use and use of other psychoactive substances (F19);

- any of the substances controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 are involved, this include class A, B and C drugs

It should be noted that:

 1. This definition does not include every death which involved drugs, for example, transport accidents where the driver was under the influence of drugs are excluded.

2. Only deaths related to poisonings by drugs, medicaments and biological substances are included.  Poisonings by other types of chemicals are excluded.

NISRA publish a list of controlled drugs mentioned on death certificates in Northern Ireland.


Information Papers