Deaths and hospital emergencies

Drug- and alcohol-related deaths among the under-20s are relatively rare. However, during the 1990s the number of drug-related deaths among young people in the EU overall rose steadily. A total of 3 103 deaths among young people were recorded in the EU between 1990 and 2000 (Figure 52 OL). The comparable loss of years for the death of a young person is higher than for an older person when years of life expectancy lost (96) are calculated. See ‘Drug-related deaths’ for detailed information. The United Kingdom is the only Member State that reports on deaths specifically related to inhalation of volatile substances. Over a period of 18 years there were 1 707 deaths specifically related to this phenomenon. The majority of these deaths occurred in people between the ages of 15 and 19 (Field-Smith et al., 2002). Despite the media attention given to ecstasy-related deaths, inhalants probably constitute a greater health risk to adolescents than other forms of drug use.

There are no routinely collected EU data on drug-related hospital emergencies because of the hidden nature of illicit drug use, combined use of alcohol and other drugs and lack of toxicological analyses (Tait et al., 2002). The limited data that are available suggest that alcohol is a greater burden on the health services in some Member States than illicit drug use. WHO estimates that in developed countries alcohol accounts for 10–11 % of all illness and death each year (Rehn et al., 2001). For example, a Danish survey of young people in 2001 found that fewer 17-year-olds had reported hospital attendance for drug-related problems than for alcohol-related problems (Danish national report). In Ireland, a regional study of hospital case notes over a 3-month period found that almost all of the 55 hospital admissions among young people aged 10–18 were related to alcohol alone or deliberate self-poisonings (Mid-Western Health Board, 2002; reported in the Irish national report).

(96)  The current EU average life expectancy is 75 years for men and 80 for women.