Opioids contribute to two thirds of drug-induced deaths


Opioid drugs were found to have contributed to 1,123 of the 1,740 drug-induced deaths in 2018 - data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows.

Director of Health and Vital Statistics at the ABS, James Eynstone-Hinkins, said there were more than three deaths a day in 2018 where opioid drugs were a factor.

“Of these deaths, the most common were accidental overdoses among middle-aged males,” he said.

Deaths associated with the illicit opioid heroin have been increasing since the year 2000, with 438 heroin-induced deaths recorded in 2018.

However, in the past two years a decrease in deaths relating to natural and semi-synthetic opioids has seen the overall opioid-induced death rate fall marginally.

Heart disease remained the leading cause of death in 2018 followed by Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Stroke, lung cancer and lower respiratory diseases round out the top five causes.

"Changes in the leading causes of death over recent years have been characterised by decreases in cardiovascular disease deaths and increases in dementia deaths.

“In just a decade the gap between deaths from heart disease and deaths from dementia has decreased from more than 14,000 to just 3,500.”

Cancers accounted for more than 30 per cent of all deaths in 2018 with lung cancer remaining the leading cause of cancer deaths for both males and females. Prostate cancer and breast cancer were the sixth ranked cause for males and females, accounting for 3,264 and 2,999 deaths respectively.

There were 158,493 deaths in Australia in 2018, a decrease in both the number and rate of death compared to 2017.

Suicide was the leading cause of death among people 15 to 44 years of age and accounted for the highest number of years of life lost. In 2018, suicide deaths occurred at a rate of 12.1 deaths per 100,000 people.

Comprehensive data and analysis can be found in Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0) and Deaths, Australia (cat. no. 3302.0), available for free download from the ABS website - http://www.abs.gov.au.

Media note:

  • Care should be taken when reporting suicide deaths. Please refer to the Mindframe website for further guidance.
  • Care should be taken when interpreting figures relating to suicide and when comparing suicide data with previous years. See Explanatory notes 41 and 91-100 in Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0) for further information.
  • When reporting ABS data, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or ABS) must be attributed as the source.
  • For media requests and interviews, contact the ABS Communications Section on 1300 175 070 (8.30am - 5pm Mon-Fri).
  • Subscribe to our email notification service and get media releases or products sent to you on release.
Back to top of the page