This article summarises different approaches to defining what constitutes a drug‐related death (DRDs) and how they can be classified. DRDs usually fall into two broad categories: (a) those directly attributable to the consumption of drugs (both illegal and licit) eg. overdose and poisoning, and (b) indirect ‐ those which occur as a consequence of having a drug habit that exposes individuals to the risk of dying in some other way, eg. blood‐borne infections, accidents. Most attention is currently given to direct or ‘acute’ DRDs rather than the long‐term consequences of drug abuse. Problems associated with accurately deriving DRD statistics are outlined. Despite their limitations, such information is essential for identifying issues related to drug use and measuring progress against targets set for reducing DRDs.
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