Statistics from the NI Substance Misuse Database 2016/17

Date published: 30 January 2018

The Department of Health today published the “Statistics from the NI Substance Misuse Database 2016/17” report and accompanying tables.

Statistics from the NI substance misuse database

The bulletin summarises information on people presenting to services with problem drug and / or alcohol misuse and relates to the 12-month period ending 31 March 2017. This is the first bulletin reporting on information collected through the Northern Ireland Substance Misuse Database (SMD), which replaced the previous Northern Ireland Drug Misuse Database (DMD). 

Key Findings

  • In Northern Ireland in 2016/17, a total of 4,368 clients presented to services for problem substance misuse and gave their consent for their details to be included in the SMD. 
  • More than a quarter of clients (27.4%, 1,195 clients) presented to services for misuse of drugs only; 44.0% (1,923 clients) for problem alcohol use only; and 28.6% (1,250) for both drug and problem alcohol misuse.
  • The majority of clients (72.1%) were male; this was true across all client types.
  • The most common age group for clients generally was 25-34 years (24.4%), however clients accessing services only for problem alcohol use tended to be in older age-groups, with 45-54 years being the most common (30.9%).
  • Cannabis was the most commonly used drug with almost two thirds of clients who use drugs reporting taking it (65.8%), this was followed by Cocaine (36.9%); Benzodiazepines (35.1%); Ecstasy (15.3%) and Heroin (10.9%).
  • In comparison with the previous year, the proportion of clients using Cannabis has remained at a similar level, the proportion using Benzodiazepines has fallen from 37.1% to 35.1% whilst an increase was noted for both Cocaine (34.6% to 36.9%) and Ecstasy (10.5% to 15.3%).
  • One in ten drug use clients reported ever having injected (10.6%); this is consistent with the 2015/16 finding. Of those who had injected, around one in five (19.4%) reported having shared injecting equipment at some time.
  • Of those clients attending for problem alcohol use, two in five (44.0%) indicated daily consumption of alcohol.
  • Two in five clients presenting to services for problem alcohol use (41.6%) reported previous treatment for alcohol; a smaller proportion of those presenting for drug use (26.2%) reported having previous treatment for drugs.

Notes to editors: 

  1. An entry in the Substance Misuse Database is completed for every client who presents at a service with a drug and / or alcohol related problem for treatment.  Only those clients attending for the very first time or those who have not attended for treatment within the previous six months are recorded on the SMD.  This means that a small number of clients may be recorded twice on the SMD within one year.  This amounted to 33 clients in 2016/17.
  2. Clients must give their consent for their data to be entered on the SMD. Where this is not given, a ‘consent withheld,’ record is entered into the system without any client details.   Where an SMD entry is missing data crucial to analysis, it is removed from the analysis dataset.  During 2016/17 consent was withheld, or crucial data required for analyses was not provided in 221 cases.
  3. To allow for comparability with previous DMD reports, responses from clients attending services for alcohol misuse only have been excluded from responses to questions relating to drug use, including drug history.  Similarly, responses from clients attending services for drug use only have been excluded from responses to questions relating to alcohol misuse.
  4. Analysis by Health and Social Care Trust is based on the number of clients presenting for a service located in that Trust area. Services available across Trusts vary and this may be reflected in the drugs misused.
  5. It should be noted that findings in this report may differ from those presented in other reports due to the discretionary engagement of individual services in SMD collection.
  6. This Bulletin is available online.
  7. Further information on the Substance Misuse Database in NI is available from:

    Public Health Information and Research Branch
    Department of Health
    Annexe 2, Castle Buildings
    Stormont, BT4 3SQ

    Telephone: 028 9052 2607



  8. For media enquiries please contact the Department of Health Press Office on 028 9052 0074 or email:  For out of hours please contact to Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt

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