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More than five drug-induced deaths per day in Australia in 2019, says annual report

Image - More than five drug-induced deaths per day in Australia in 2019, says annual report
Date Published:
15 Apr 2021
Contact person:
Jacob Webb

There were more than five drug-induced deaths per day in Australia in 2019, with an increase in deaths involving amphetamines and cocaine, says new report.

Released by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), UNSW Sydney, the report says preliminary estimates indicate that there were 1,865 drug-induced deaths among Australians in 2019.

Program Lead for the Drug Trends Program at NDARC, Dr Amy Peacock said, “This is the fifth year in a row where the number of drug-induced deaths is higher than the earlier peak in deaths in the late 1990s (1,740 deaths in 1999).”

“This equates to 7.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 2019, which is relatively consistent with preliminary estimates for 2018 (7.3 deaths per 100,000 people).”

Increases in deaths involving amphetamines and cocaine were identified in the report.

“The rate of drug-induced deaths involving amphetamine in 2019 (2.0 deaths per 100,000 people) is tracking to be higher than that recorded in 2018 (1.6 deaths per 100,000 people) and four times the rate a decade ago in 2009 (0.48 deaths per 100,000 people),” said Dr Peacock.

“There were 86 (0.35 per 100,000 people) drug-induced deaths involving cocaine in 2019, which has more than doubled since 2016 (34 or 0.15 per 100,000 people).”

The report found that one in four (24%) drug-induced deaths were considered intentional.

“The majority (67%) of drug-induced deaths were deemed unintentional,” said Dr Peacock.

There were 1,121 opioid-induced deaths, with a shift to more deaths involving heroin than natural and semi-synthetic opioid like morphine or oxycodone.

“This is the first year the number of opioid-induced deaths involving heroin (474) has surpassed that of natural and semi-synthetic opioids (460),” said Dr Peacock.

For the first time, data has been included on psychosocial risk factors, with researchers finding at least one psychosocial risk factor was present for approximately 24 per cent of unintentional deaths and 62 per cent of intentional deaths in 2019.

“The most frequent psychosocial risk factor identified in coroner-certified drug-induced deaths was personal history of self-harm,” said Dr Peacock.

“Other frequently identified psychosocial factors in 2019 were: disruption of family by separation and divorce, disappearance and death of a person in the primary support group, problems in relationship with spouse or partner, and problems related to other legal circumstances.”

The report has also found that there has been a shift over time in the age demographic of drug-induced deaths.

“Those in the 45-54 and 35-44 age groups are now experiencing the highest rate of drug-induced deaths where previously in the late 1990s the rate was elevated in the 25-34 age group,” said Dr Peacock.

In 2019, the rate of drug-induced deaths was similar in major cities, inner regional and outer regional areas, and lowest in remote/very remote areas.

Download the full report here.