Drug and Alcohol
Opioids cause 2,200 deaths and cost $15.7 billion a year in Australia
In a single year, extra-medical opioid use caused more than 2,200 deaths, 32,000 hospital admissions and resulted in the loss of over 70,000 years of life in Australia, according to researchers at Curtin University.
“Extra-medical” opioid use includes both the illegal use of opioids such as heroin, and the misuse of pharmaceutical opioids – that is, when they’re not used as prescribed or intended.
The researchers found that the social costs of pharmaceutical opioid misuse and illicit opioid use in Australia over the financial year 2015-16 was an estimated $15.7 billion.
An Australian survey (for 2016) showed more than 645,000 people used extra-medical opioids in the previous year. The researchers say this is probably an underestimate.
“While Australia has so far avoided the pharmaceutical opioid crisis seen elsewhere, especially in the United States, the number of Australian deaths due to pharmaceutical opioids outstrip those from heroin,” the report says.
“In 2017, only 28 per cent of opioid deaths involved illicit opioids alone. Some 63 per cent involved pharmaceutical opioids and the remainder involved both.
While most deaths documented in the report were due to drug toxicity (overdose), liver disease and liver cancer due to hepatitis C virus (HCV) accounted for 39 per cent of extra-medical opioid deaths.
The report can be downloaded at: http://ndri.curtin.edu.au/NDRI/media/documents/publications/T277.pdf