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Drug-related deaths among recently released prisoners in Ireland

14th July 2010

A new study has investigated deaths following release from prison among individuals recorded on the National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI) from 1998 to 2005.

'Drug-Related Deaths Among Recently Released Prisoners in Ireland, 1998 to 2005', published in the International Journal for Prisoner Health, highlights the need for more intensive prevention measures in the period immediately following release from Irish prisons, including the development of a national overdose prevention strategy.

Between 1998 and 2005, 2,442 drug-related deaths were recorded on the NDRDI, 130 of which were people with a history of imprisonment. This study focused on the 105 of these people who were on release from prison at the time of their death. Of the 105:

  • 89% were male
  • 62% were aged between 20 and 29 years
  • 84% were unemployed
  • 20% were living in unstable accommodation and 10% were homeless

Almost two thirds (61%) had a history of injecting drug use and 34% were reported to be injecting at the time of their death. 

These 105 individuals were compared with other cases on the NDRDI who had no history of imprisonment. Those with no history of imprisonment were older, had significantly lower rates of unemployment, homelessness, drug dependency/abuse and were less likely to have a history of injecting drug use. 

Of the 89 cases with a known date of release, 25 (28.1%) died within a week of release from prison and a further 17 (19.1%) died within the fist month of release.

These statistics demonstrate the increased risk of mortality in those newly released from prison and highlight the need for preventative measures for this at-risk group. The study found that it is possible that many of these deaths could be preventable through decisive, but inexpensive action, such as improving links between prisons and the appropriate services and training in overdose prevention techniques.

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