Characteristics of victims

Figure 14

Changes in the proportion of victims of drug-related deaths over 35 years among EU countries from 1990 (1) until 2000–2001

item 1990 | item Latest year, as indicated


(1) Denmark 1996. Years presented are those with the necessary breakdown or those for which a comparative analysis was possible (same age distribution).

For some countries ages ranges differ between years (Greece: 1990, ≥ 31; and 2001, ≥ 30; Germany: 1990 and 2001, ≥ 30). In Ireland and Luxembourg the proportion of victims over 35 in 1990 was 0 %.

Sources: Reitox national reports 2002, taken from general mortality registries or special registries (forensic or police). Based on national definitions as presented Box 9 OL: Definitions of ‘acute drug-related death’ in EU Member States, as used in the EMCDDA annual report and reported in national reports. See also Statistical Table 25: Summary of characteristics of victims of acute drug-related death in the EU countries.


The majority (80–90 %) of overdose victims in most EU countries are men (range 69–90 %) (Figure 14 OL). This may reflect the high proportion of men among opiate addicts, as some studies suggest that the risk of overdose is similar among men and women. However, in many cases, the proportion of overdose victims who are men is higher than the proportion of men among clients admitted to treatment. Most victims are in their late 20s or 30s and have been using opiates for several years. Among EU countries, the mean age of drug-related death victims ranges from 30.2 to 40 years, and in most countries the age of victims is tending to increase (Figure 14). This trend has also been reported from countries outside Europe. However, in Finland and, to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom there was an increase in the proportion of younger victims, a finding that deserves particular attention as it might indicate an increased incidence of injection or opiate use in recent years, and in Greece and Sweden no such trend towards an increase in the age of victims was apparent.