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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2017 Oct 1;179:291-298. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.07.018. Epub 2017 Aug 14.

Trends in heroin and pharmaceutical opioid overdose deaths in Australia.

Author information

1
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia. Electronic address: a.roxburgh@unsw.edu.au.
2
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia; University of Queensland Clinical Centre for Research, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, 4072, Australia; University of Queensland Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, 4006, Australia; National Addiction Centre, Kings College London, WC2R 2LS, United Kingdom.
3
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia.
4
Centre for Big Data Research in Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia.
5
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia; School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, VIC, 3010, Australia.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

There has been international concern over the rise in fatal pharmaceutical opioid overdose rates, driven by increased opioid analgesic prescribing. The current study aimed to examine trends in opioid overdose deaths by: 1) opioid type (heroin and pharmaceutical opioids); and 2) age, gender, and intent of the death assigned by the coroner.

METHODS:

Analysis of data from the National Coronial Information System (NCIS) of opioid overdose deaths occurring between 2001 and 2012.

RESULTS:

Deaths occurred predominantly (98%) among Australians aged 15-74 years. Approximately two-thirds of the decedents (68%) were male. The heroin overdose death rate remains unchanged over the period; these were more likely to occur among males. Pharmaceutical opioid overdose deaths increased during the study period (from 21.9 per million population in 2001-36.2), and in 2012 they occurred at 2.5 times the incident rate of heroin overdose deaths. Increases in pharmaceutical opioid deaths were largely driven by accidental overdoses. They were more likely to occur among males than females, and highest among Australians aged 45-54 years. Rates of fentanyl deaths in particular showed an increase over the study period (from a very small number at the beginning of the period) but in 2012 rates of morphine deaths were higher than those for oxycodone, fentanyl and tramadol.

CONCLUSIONS:

Given the increase in rates of pharmaceutical opioid overdose deaths, it is imperative to implement strategies to reduce pharmaceutical opioid-related mortality, including more restrictive prescribing practices and increasing access to treatment for opioid dependence.

KEYWORDS:

Drug overdose; Fentanyl; Heroin; Morphine; Mortality; Opioid analgesics; Oxycodone; Prescription opioids

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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