Project Summary

Australia has looked on with concern at the widespread harm from prescription opioid painkillers in the US. Until recently, Australian use of prescription opioids such as oxycodone was increasing, and with it worries about addiction, overdose and other problems. Many people are prescribed these medicines after a visit to hospital and research in Australia and elsewhere has suggested that these individuals can go on to long-term and potentially problematic use. This project aims to generate robust and actionable information about the prevalence and natural history of prescription opioid use initiated during or soon after a hospital visit in Australia, focusing on persistent or long-term use and its harms. 

Project date

Jun - Dec 2023


Project Lead


Ms Chrianna Bharat - UNSW Sydney

Ms Ximena Camacho - UNSW Sydney

Ms Kendal Chidwick - UNSW Sydney

Prof David Currow - University of Wollongong

Prof Louisa Degenhardt - UNSW Sydney

A/Prof Natasa Gisev - UNSW Sydney

Prof Sallie Pearson - UNSW Sydney

Research Question

What is the prevalence and natural history of opioid use initiated during hospital stay or post-discharge in New South Wales, particularly the prevalence of persistent opioid use? 


  1. Describe the proportion of people discharged from hospital/ED who were dispensed opioids soon after discharge, stratified by year and type of admission 
  2. Describe the proportion of people dispensed opioids post-discharge who subsequently used opioids persistently, stratified by year and type of admission

Data Sources

We will use population-based, linked administrative health data from the Medicines Intelligence Data Platform, comprising Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS), Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS), National Death Index (NDI)/Cause-of-death Unit Record File (CODURF), NSW Admitted Patient Data Collection (APDC), NSW Emergency Department Data Collection (EDDC), and NSW Clinical Cancer Registry (CCR) for all adult residents of NSW from 2002-2021.  

Policy Implications

Evidence from this study can help inform the type of interventions and their timing to reduce the risks associated with opioids initiated during hospital stay or at discharge

End Users

  • clinicians
  • regulators
  • guidelines authors
  • safety and quality professionals
  • hospital drug and therapeutics committees


Stay tuned

This section will be updated throughout the project. Please return in the future to see the impact from this project.