Call for increased awareness after opioid death spike revealed

A report by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) reveals that a total of 551 Australians across all ages died from accidental opioid overdoses in 2008, a figure that is expected to rise in subsequent years.

However, of 465 oxycodone-related deaths identified in previous research between 2001 and 2009, only 10% were due to oxycodone toxicity alone. Benzodiazepines and alcohol were commonly implicated in the 82% of deaths due to multiple drug toxicity, with the remaining 8% from other causes (e.g. pneumonia or cardiac failure), with drug toxicity (including oxycodone toxicity) being a contributory cause.

NDARC director Professor Michael Farrell said any increase in opioid-related deaths was concerning and needed to be closely monitored.

"Many opioid related deaths are due to multiple drug toxicity, which increases the risk of fatal overdose, and there needs to be continued awareness of the risks of multiple drug consumption," he said.