Drug deaths on the rise


It’s a sobering thought for business owners and managers who are concerned about the affect that alcohol and drugs can have on their workplace – drug deaths in Australia are on the rise.

It’s yet another indicator that shows that Australians are continuing to take risks with drugs. This includes short-term risks, such as taking drugs and then going to work or driving, and long-term risk, such as taking illicit drugs or becoming addicted to prescribed medicines.

ABS causes of death – drugs a major impact

In an Australian Bureau of Statistics report on the leading cause of death released recently, it was highlighted that in 2016, Australia recorded its highest number of drug-induced deaths since the late 1990s.

The death rate from drugs has been steadily increasing over the last 10 years and now sits at 7.5 deaths per 100,000 Australians. That adds up to just over 1800 drug induced deaths in 2016.

While death rates from illicit drugs have increased a major factor is the rise of deaths from prescribed medicines such as benzodiazepines and oxycodone. So, while in the 1990’s a drug death was likely to involve a younger person who used heroin, morphine or benzodiazepines, today it’s more likely to be a middle-aged man who has misused prescription drugs. Often, they may have used multiple prescription drugs.

While prescription drugs have caused a higher number of drug induced deaths than illegal drugs, one type of illegal drug in particular has leapt to prominence in recent drug death surveys. Perhaps not surprisingly, the drug is methamphetamines or ICE. There has been a rapid increase in the number of deaths caused by methamphetamines in recent years, with the death rate in 2016 four times higher than that in 1999. In 2016, there were 1.6 deaths per 100,000 people caused by methamphetamines. Heroin also remains a common drug involved in deaths.

One of the starkest statistics to come from the ABS’s causes of death report is the link between drug misuse and premature death. With Australians boasting a high life expectancy compared with some countries of just over 82 years, 50% of all deaths in Australia occur after the age of 80. However, the majority of people who die due to drug misuse do so before they reach 64 years of age (90%). This means that on average a person who dies from a drug induced death loses 33.7 years from their life.


Heart disease remains Australia’s leading cause of death, although the good news is that the number and rate of death from heart disease is declining. Other leading causes of death include cancer, diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and suicide.

Drug and drug induced deaths have been thrust into the spotlight with a recently released ABS report.


By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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