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Prescription medicines responsible for more drug-induced deaths in Australia than illegal drugs

Prescription medicines responsible for more drug-induced deaths in Australia than illegal drugs


More deaths are now caused by prescription medicines than illegal drugs in Australia.
There has been a 'substantial rise' in prescription drug-related deaths, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

About one million Australians – or 4.8 per cent of the population – older than 14 had misused a pharmaceutical drug in the last 12 months.

This is up from 3.7 per cent when the research first began a decade ago.

In 2016 the non-medical use of pharmaceuticals was higher than all illegal drugs except cannabis.
AIHW spokesman Matthew James said drug-induced deaths are 'more likely to be due to prescription drugs than illegal drugs'.

'In 2016 there were 1808 drug-induced deaths in Australia with benzodiazepines the most common single drug type, identified in 663 drug-induced deaths,' he said.

'This is followed by 550 deaths from other opioids – including prescription painkillers such as oxycodone, morphine and codeine.'

A survey also carried out by the AIHW showed Aboriginal Australians were more than twice as likely to have recently used a pharmaceutical drug for non-medical purposes compared to non-indigenous Australians.
 

The survey also found people living in remote, rural areas were almost twice as likely as those living in major cities to use pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes.

'This finding also held true for Australians living in the most disadvantaged socio-economic areas, with 6 per cent having recently misused pharmaceuticals compared with 4.2 per cent of those in the most advantaged areas,' Mr James said.

People who misused pharmaceuticals were also more likely to experience mental illness, chronic pain and psychological distress compared with those who did not misuse them.