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Synthetic opioids raise drug-related deaths to record level

The annual drug death toll in Finland grew by more than one fifth in 2018, to a total of 261 people.

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More people died of opioid painkillers in 2018 than any other drug. Image: Hernan Schmidt / AOP

More people in Finland died of drug overdoses and related reasons in 2018 than ever before, Statistics Finland reported on Monday. The drug death toll rose for a third year running, the stats agency said.

A total of 261 people lost their lives through the use of addictive narcotics, legal and illegal, up from 200 deaths one year previously.

Some 75 percent of all drug-related deaths were opioid overdoses, mostly from legal, synthetic prescription opioids used to treat chronic pain.

"Deaths increased most in the 20-29 age group. A majority of drug-related deaths were accidental poisonings from multiple substances where the effect from drugs was dominant," Statistics Finland said.

Alcohol abuse fatalities also increased by more than a hundred to 1,683 last year. Three out of four were men, and likewise three quarters were aged 55 years or older.

Memory disorder fatalities double in decade

The most common causes of death among Finnish people in 2018 were diseases of the circulatory system, neoplasms (abnormal growths such as cancer tumours) and memory afflictions such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

The number of annual deaths linked to dementia and Alzheimer's has risen by 47 percent over a ten-year period, and by five percent from 2017 to 2018.

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