News National Accidental opioid deaths on rise: report

Accidental opioid deaths on rise: report

Opioids Australia
More Australians are dying after accidentally overdosing on prescription opioids. Photo: Getty
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The number of Australians dying after accidentally overdosing on prescription opioids such as oxycodone is on the rise.

A total of 1045 people died of an opioid overdose in 2016, and three-quarters of the deaths were related to prescription opioids, the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre said.

The number of accidental deaths rose to 890, from 873 the year before, and made up 85 per cent of the overall opioid deaths.

Three-quarters of the overall deaths were linked to pharmaceutical opioids, which include morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone and fentanyl.

The prescription drugs accounted for 65 per cent (679 people) of all opioid deaths in Australia.

The rate of opioid deaths was highest among 35-to 44-year-olds, accounting for 364 deaths (11.3 per 100,000 people), while men accounted for more than two-thirds of opioid deaths (714 men, 331 women).

NDARC’s Amy Peacock said while fentanyl was driving many opioid-related deaths in the US and Canada, the same pattern wasn’t occurring in Australia.

“Although we are carefully monitoring the situation in Australia, at the moment, there is little evidence to suggest that illicit fentanyl is playing a large part in our opioid overdoses,” Dr Peacock said.

“But we are conscious of being prepared if we do start to see these [illicit] products come into Australia.”

NDARC found while there was a slight dip in the overall number of opioid deaths between 2015 an 2016, looking over the past decade there had been a rise from 3.8 to 6.6 deaths per 100,000 Australians.

The number of amphetamine-induced deaths also reached an all-time high of 105.