Drug and Alcohol
Opioids still the leading cause of overdose deaths in Australia
Over 2000 Australians are dying from drug overdoses every year and there is a clear trend upwards.
Australia’s Annual Overdose Report, compiled by the independent health research unit, the Penington Institute, found that 1556 of the 2070 fatal overdoses were unintentional.
It found 70 per cent of victims were men and 400 more Australians died from an overdose than on the nation’s roads, with the gap widening.
The largest number of overdose deaths (more than 1000) involved opioids such as heroin, morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl followed by benzodiazepines such as Valium.
Opioid-related deaths in Australia have been on an upward trend in recent years, having doubled since 2006.
A large driver of increasing opioid deaths internationally has been the increase in prescribing and use of pharmaceutical opioids, with Australia ranked tenth worldwide.
Australia has introduced a range of strategies to manage and restrict supply, including re-scheduling codeine to prescription-only, introducing smaller pack sizes, and setting up systems to track prescribing.
As many of these changes have only been implemented recently, it’s too early to know whether they’re having a positive effect.
“Overdose is our hidden health crisis – and it’s a crisis that is costing us billions. And what’s worse is these deaths are preventable,” the Penington Institute’s chief executive, John Ryan said.