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Published: 16 December 2019

More people died from drugs and alcohol than before

According to Statistics Finland's statistics on causes of death, 261 persons died from drugs in Finland in 2018, which was 61 persons more than in 2017. The number of deaths caused by drugs have increased three years in a row. Deaths increased most in the age group 20 to 29. A majority of drug-related deaths were accidental poisonings from multiple substances where the effect from drugs was dominant.

Drug-related deaths 2006–2018 (EMCDDA definition)

Drug-related deaths 2006–2018 (EMCDDA definition)

Deaths caused by long-term drug use increased most in relative terms. In 2018, altogether 49 such deaths that are usually caused by drug addiction occurred, while in 2017 the number was 29. A majority (65%) of drug-related deaths were, however, accidental poisonings, which in 2018 numbered 169. The number is higher than in previous years. In 2018, additionally 35 suicides were committed with drugs, which was 13 more than in the previous year.

A majority of drug-related deaths are poisonings from multiple substances where the person has, in addition to drugs, used, for example, psychopharmacons and/or alcohol. The most common form is combined use of drugs and pharmaceuticals. Three out of four drug-related deaths were associated with overdoses of opioids. To a large part, the most effective substance was synthetic pharmaceutical opioids.

In 2018, there were 4.7 drug-related deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Mortality from drugs is higher in Finland and also in other Nordic countries than elsewhere in Europe. Over 70 per cent of those who died from drugs were men, but women committed most suicides with drugs.

In Finland, drug-related deaths focus on younger age groups than on average in Europe. The average age at death caused by drugs was 33 years for men and 39 years for women. Growth occurred in nearly all age groups, but deaths increased most in the age group 20 to 29. The biggest group of drug-related deaths was men aged 25 to 29.

Drug-related deaths by age in 2017 and 2018

Drug-related deaths by age in 2017 and 2018

Drug-related deaths can be defined in many ways. In the definition by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA’s Selection B classification), opioids, cannabis and its derivatives, and other hallucinogens and psychostimulants suitable for abuse, such as amphetamine and its derivatives are defined as drugs.

Number of deaths from alcohol-related causes increased in 2018

Deaths from alcohol-related causes increased in 2018 from 2017 but were still clearly below the top years 2007 to 2009 when more than 2,000 persons died from alcohol-related causes. In total 1,683 persons died from alcohol-related diseases and alcohol poisonings. Of them, 1,269 were men and 414 women. An increase of 100 persons from the year before. Three out of four persons dying from alcohol-related causes were aged 55 or over. The share of alcohol-related causes in all deaths was three per cent.

Deaths from alcohol-related causes include alcohol-related diseases and accidental alcohol poisonings. More than one-half of deaths from alcohol-related causes stemmed from liver diseases caused by alcohol. Heart and liver diseases caused by alcohol, as well as alcohol poisonings increased from last year.

In 2018, the number of deaths from alcohol poisonings increased for the first time since 2006. A total of 255 persons died from alcohol poisonings, which was good 40 persons more than in the year before. More than one-half of those who died were men aged between 45 and 64. The share of alcohol poisonings in all deaths from alcohol-related causes has decreased from 26 to 15 per cent over a ten-year period.

Alcohol-related deaths in 2007 to 2018

Alcohol-related deaths in 2007 to 2018

Causes of death 2018

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Age-standardised mortality rate Age-standandardised mortality rate
Number Number Number % Change
2017–2018, %
2008–2018, %
Deaths total 54 523 27 182 27 341 100 –0,4 –12,1
Diseases of the circulatory system 18 827 9 547 9 280 35 –3,5 –28,4
Neoplasms 12 902 6 883 6 019 24 –2,1 –6,5
Dementia, Alzheimer's disease 10 120 3 273 6 847 19 +5,0 +47,1
Accidents 2 387 1 506 881 4 +1,0 –18,2
Disease of the respiratory system 2 234 1 303 931 4 +5,8 –11,9
Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 1 683 1 269 414 3 +7,7 –25,3
Suicides 810 618 192 1 –2,7 –25,5
Other causes of death 5 560 2 783 2 777 10 - -

Source: Causes of death, Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Kati Taskinen 029 551 3648, Airi Pajunen 029 551 3605, Jari Hellanto 029 551 3291,

Director in charge: Jari Tarkoma

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Updated 16.12.2019

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Causes of death [e-publication].
ISSN=1799-5078. 2018. Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 25.2.2024].
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