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Opioid-related deaths in Australia

Released March 2021
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opioid-related deaths, 2001-2018
deaths per year on average
primary opioid contribution


Opioids include medications used for pain relief and illicit drugs, such as heroin. Opioids can be harmful if misused or combined with other central nervous system depressants.

There were 18,246 opioid-related deaths reported to an Australian coroner from 2001 to 2018. Opioid-related deaths more than doubled during this period from 609 deaths in 2001 to 1393 deaths in 2018. The seven most commonly identified opioid drugs contributing to death were morphine, codeine, heroin, methadone, oxycodone, tramadol and fentanyl. Opioid-related deaths frequently involved other drug classes such as sedatives and hypnotics, and antidepressants and antipsychotics.

Data sources

The data was extracted from the NCIS in January 2021. The data set contained every external cause fatality where an opioid was listed in the Drug coding fields that was reported to an Australian coroner between 1 January 2001 and 31 December 2018. Cases were included where the coronial investigation had concluded and the case was closed on the NCIS.

Drug classification was determined based on the NCIS Pharmaceutical substance for human use codeset.

See explanatory notes for information on data sources and limitations, including information about reporting of deaths involving heroin. For further data, request a data report.


Content is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0), unless otherwise stated. Attribution must be provided to the National Coronial Information System (NCIS).

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