Drug abusers still in their 20s are among the most likely to die as a result of complications related to taking illicit substances, fresh data has revealed.

In newly-published information marking the International Overdose Awareness Day, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) showed that in Malta, 40 per cent of all drug-induced deaths re-ported in 2017 involved persons aged between 20 and 29.

According to the monitoring centre, Malta’s rate for this age group is the highest in Europe.

A similar trend was also reported among those aged between 40 and 49. The rate, however, went down for those in the 30 to 39 group, where 20 per cent of drug-related deaths occurred.

A record 9,461 lives were lost in 2017

Nobody under the age of 20 or over the age of 49 was reported as having died as a result of drug abuse, the EMCDDA data showed.

The centre’s researchers also revealed that the latest estimates showed that drug overdose deaths in Europe as a whole have risen for the fifth consecutive year, with a record 9,461 lives lost in 2017.

Reducing drug-related deaths is now regarded a major public health challenge, they lamented.

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“Overdose deaths are preventable. We know from research that many of those who die have been struggling and living on the margins of society for years.

“We know that those who overdose once are at a very high risk of overdosing again.

“And we know that effective preventive and response measures exist that would allow us to avoid many deaths. Bystanders must also be empowered to save lives and prevent irreversible organ damage with effective medication,” EMCDDA director Alexis Goosdeel said.

In June, through its annual report, the EU drug agency had revealed that almost half of drug-related admissions to the emergency room in Malta were a result of cocaine abuse.

This rate was also among the highest in Europe.

What factors increase the risk of a fatal overdose?

According to the EU drug agency, the type of substance used, the route of administration and the health of the abuser all have an impact on the risk of overdose.

Most overdose deaths are linked to the use of opioids, primarily the injection of heroin or synthetic opioids.

Polydrug use – the abuse from more than one type of drug – is also very common and the combination of heroin or other opioids with other central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, poses particularly high risks.

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