Drug deaths are dropping, but poisonings are on the rise

New report shows that diminishing use has led to fewer drug-related deaths, but the number of poisonings keeps rising

Fewer people suffered drug-related deaths last year, an annual report on the nation's drug use shows.

According to the health authority Sundhedsstyrelsen, police reported 210 drug related deaths in 2012, compared to 285 in 2011 and 276 in both 2010 and 2009.

The 2012 statistics show the lowest number of deaths since 1994.

"It is very positive that the number of deaths has dropped so much and it shows that our efforts to help the most hardened addicts have worked," Jakob Demant of the drug research centre at Aarhus University told DR Nyheder.

Drug users tend to have a high mortality rate because their lifestyle makes them more vulnerable to contract illnesses like HIV or Hepatitis or become victims of violence or accidents. Drug addicts also have a high suicide rate.

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The report shows a general decline in the distribution of drugs like amphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy and psychedlic mushrooms, but not in cannabis, which in 2013 was used by 44.2 percent of people between the age of 16 and 44, making it the most widely used drug in Denmark.

Getting fix on wheels
The report lists "local initiatives" among the reasons why the number of deaths has dropped.

According to Demant, it is especially the introduction of mobile injection rooms (fixerum) that has helped, because drug users get their fix under supervision which prevents them from overdosing.

"Mobile injection rooms seem to have helped and I hope the number of deaths will keep falling when Aarhus and Odense get the same facilities," he said.

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The first injection room opened in the Vesterbro neighbourhood in Copenhagen last year. Odense opened a room in February and Aarhus got its first mobile injection room on November 1.

More get poisoned
While deaths have dropped and the distribution of drugs has diminished, the report also showed a constant rise in the number of people being hospitalised with drug-related poisonings, usually achieved after mixing different drugs. 

Hospitals registered 2,028 non-fatal poisonings in 2012, compared to 1,163 in 2004 – a rise of 74 percent over the eight years. But although the general number has been rising, heroin-related poisonings have fallen from 195 to 121 in the same period, the report stated.

Demant is positive that these numbers can be reduced as well.

"We can bring down poisonings by informing young people how they can use drugs rather then being judgemental [of their actions]," he told DR Nyheder. "Because we just have to realise that many people live with drugs as part of their everyday life."