Opioids accounted for just over 3 deaths per day in 2018. The majority of these opioid-induced fatalities were unintentional overdoses in middle aged males involving the use of pharmaceutical opioids, often in the presence of other substances. Opioid related harm, including mortality, is a serious public health issue both in Australia and internationally.
- Of the 1,740 registered drug-induced deaths in 2018, opioids were present in close to two thirds (1,123 deaths, 64.5%). Opioid-induced mortality in 2018 was slightly lower than that recorded in 2017 with a per capita rate of 4.6 per 100,000 people compared to 4.8.
- Pharmaceutical opioids are present in over 70% of opioid-induced deaths. The rate of opioid-induced deaths with synthetic opioids present has increased significantly over the last decade. In 2018 there was a decrease in the number of deaths with naturally derived and semi-synthetic opioids present compared to 2017.
- There were 438 heroin-induced deaths in 2018. This is the highest number of heroin-induced deaths since the year 2000, with the increase being significant over the last 5 years.
- This paper focusses on opioid-induced deaths. An opioid-induced death is one where death is attributable directly to drug use and where an opioid was present. An opioid may have been present singularly, for example heroin was the only drug found on toxicology, or the opioid may have been found in combination with other substances. Excluded from analysis are opioid-related deaths, which are deaths where opioid use contributed to death, but the cause of death was something other than drug-induced (e.g. a traffic accident where the deceased was under the influence of heroin).