Belgium Country Drug Report 2019

Drug-induced deaths

Drug-induced deaths are deaths that can be attributed directly to the use of illicit drugs (i.e. poisonings and overdoses).

In Belgium, drug-induced deaths are recorded in the General Mortality Register located at the National Institute of Statistics, and the latest available data at the national level are for 2014. Opioids (mainly heroin, but also fentanyl and derivatives) were involved in two thirds of all toxicologically confirmed drug-induced deaths that were reported in 2014. The majority of the deaths were of males. The data obtained from the General Mortality Register for 2017 (data registration year 2015) did not contain drug-related deaths for the French-speaking part of Belgium; therefore, no recent national data are currently available. The drug-induced mortality rate among adults aged 15-64 years was 8.19 per million in 2014 (latest data available).

An additional and timelier source of information is the Belgium Early Warning System on Drugs, which is based on the input of a small number of laboratories mainly located in the upper part of the country. The system reported 62 drug-induced deaths in 2017, which were mainly caused by polydrug use, with opioids (typically heroin, morphine and methadone) being involved in more than half of those cases. Fentanyl was involved in six cases. New psychoactive substances, including fentanyl analogues, have been implicated in an increasing number of deaths. For instance, the fentanyl U-47700 was involved in five cases.

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Methodological note: Analysis of trends is based only on those countries providing sufficient data to describe changes over the period specified. The reader should also be aware that monitoring patterns and trends in a hidden and stigmatised behaviour like drug use is both practically and methodologically challenging. For this reason, multiple sources of data are used for the purposes of analysis in this report. Caution is therefore required in interpretation, in particular when countries are compared on any single measure. Detailed information on methodology and caveats and comments on the limitations in the information set available can be found in the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin.