As many as 170 people a year die as a result of alcohol poisoning in Ireland, a new report has found.
The Health Research Board (HRB) said its study showed a rise in drinking related deaths from 2004 to 2008.
There were 672 people who died from alcohol poisoning during the five-year period, with fluctuations up and down each year.
Two-thirds of those who died were men and the majority were younger than 50. Half of the deaths involved another drug, either tranquillisers or opiates.
There were also 3,336 people classed as alcohol dependent who died during the period, mostly from alcoholic liver disease, heart conditions and respiratory infections. More than a third of the deaths in the 25 to 34 year age group were as the result of alcoholic liver disease, the report shows.
Others died from traumatic injuries sustained in incidents such as falls, hangings and drownings. Those who died from injuries were generally younger, with half aged 49 or younger at the time of their death.
Dr Suzi Lyons, a senior researcher at the HRB, said the types of deaths recorded in the study matched international research on drinking related deaths. "But what we cannot do in this paper though is estimate the social cost of premature mortality of these individuals, the detrimental effect on the family and burden on society," she said.
Dr Lyons said the rise in recorded alcohol-related deaths could be explained both by an actual increase as well as better recording methods.
The study showed 215 people who were not classed as alcoholics suffered alcohol related deaths over the five years, with the numbers increasing from 14 in 2004 to 84 in 2008. Two-thirds of those were as a result of traumatic events, such as drowning and choking.
Dr Lyons said Irish people remain among the biggest drinkers in Europe and a majority of people drink in a harmful manner.