Opioids killing three Australians every day
Deaths involving prescription painkillers and illicit opioids are on the rise — killing three Australians, on average, every day — but are yet to reach the toll of the end of last century.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, more than one in 10 people has used illegal opioids or misused prescription drugs.
This abuse of painkillers most recently prompted a ban on over-the-counter codeine and a proposed national strategy to better manage painful conditions and help prevent addiction.
The AIHW report, released today, shows that the number of opioid-related deaths in 2016, the most recent year for which data was available, hit 1119.
That was the highest death toll since a peak of 1245 in 1999.
“Every day in Australia, there are nearly 150 hospitalisations and 14 presentations to emer- gency departments involving opioid harm, and three people die from drug-induced deaths involving opioid use,” said AIHW spokeswoman Lynelle Moon.
“The number of deaths involving opioids has nearly doubled in the decade to 2016, from 591 to 1119. Put another way, this is a rise from about three deaths involving opioids in every 100,000 people to about five.”
The report shows opioidrelated deaths are more likely to be because of pharmaceutical drugs than illicit substances. That is the same for hospitalisations, which increased 25 per cent over the decade.
In 2016-17, 15.4 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to 3.1 million people. Oxycodone — used for moderate and severe pain, and sometimes referred to as “Hillbilly Heroin” — was the most commonly dispensed prescription opioid.
Prescription drugs are sometimes sold on the black market.