LISTEN - Drug deaths among men in Northern Ireland almost double in decade

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Organised Crime Task Force - Joe Brogan, Health and Social Care Board, Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton PSNI, Chair of the OCTF Drugs Sub-group, Michael Owen, Public Health Agency and Joe McCrisken, Coroner

By Michael McHugh, Press Association

The number of men dying from drug use in Northern Ireland has doubled in a decade, according to official statistics.

Most deaths were due to the misuse of prescription medicines, police said, with many users taking a cocktail of potentially lethal substances.

Almost half had consumed three or more different drugs, which can combine to fatally lower consciousness, a coroner said.

A total of 101 men died in 2017. That is relative to 51 fatalities 10 years earlier, official statistics revealed, and compares to the unchanged level of female deaths at 35.

PSNI detective superintendent Bobby Singleton said: "The loss of a loved one is heartbreaking for families.

"The harm and hurt caused by drug misuse is cross-cutting and impacts people's lives at every level in Northern Ireland."

Joe Brogan, head of pharmacy and medicines management at the Health and Social Care Board, said people were obtaining prescription drugs from family members, drug dealers and via the internet.

The largest number of fatalities involved those aged 25-34 and typically concerned the abuse of the prescription sedative diazepam.

The tally was four times higher in areas of greater deprivation.

Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton says it's extfremely concerning: 

Some 46% (62) were of people who had three or more drugs in their system at time of death.

In 2017, Pregabalin, a medicine for anxiety, was listed in four times more deaths, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) said.

It will be classified under misuse of drugs legislation from April after interventions from the health authorities seeking tighter controls.

Mr Singleton said the majority of drug deaths in Northern Ireland were due to the misuse of a variety of prescription medicines, often with alcohol and illicit drugs.

Coroner Joe McCrisken said he was seeing more and more cases where alcohol was mixed with drugs.

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