APH 2006, 64, 185-197:

Drug-related Deaths in Belgium, 1987-1997.

G. Jossels, F. Sartor

Keywords: mortality, illegal drugs, regions

Objective: To gain insight in the characteristics of drug-related mortality in Belgium at national level.

Method: The EMCDDA “Selection B” is applied to the general mortality registers of 1987 through 1997, retrieving 890 drug-related deaths. Univariate and multivariate methods (Poisson regression) are used to analyse these data.

Results: The analyses reveal a sudden rise in drug-related mortality in 1993. This rise could be partly due to an improvement of the death certification quality. Almost three out of four drug-related deaths occur among men. In more than 90% of the cases where the substances involved are mentioned on the death certificate, opiates are involved. Among people aged 65 years or older, a lot of drug-related deaths are observed (mostly women) with “nondependent abuse of drugs – other, mixed or unspecified” mentioned as the cause of death. This suggests that the corresponding “Selection B”-code might extract deaths that are not due to illicit substances. The difference between the regions is remarkable: the Walloon Region accounts for the most drug-related deaths. However, additional analyses put this difference into perspective. The determinants of drug-related deaths are found to be gender, age and the region of residence.

Conclusion: The reason for the sudden increase of drug-related mortality remains unclear, although an increase of certification quality can be suggested. The lack of recent data at national level remains a
major problem for public health policies.