There were 1,842 drug-induced deaths among Australians in 2020, according to preliminary estimates in a new report by the Drug Trends program at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), UNSW Sydney.

This is equivalent to five drug-induced deaths per day or 7.2 deaths per 100,000 Australians.

Drug Trends Program Lead, Dr Amy Peacock said the report presents findings on all deaths in Australia from 1997 to 2020 where drugs have been deemed the underlying cause.

‘In 2020, drug-induced deaths were nearly twice as frequent among males than females (64% versus 36%) and the highest percentage of deaths was among people aged 35-44 (25% or 466 deaths) and 45-54 (24% or 437 deaths),’ Dr Peacock said.

There were 524 drug overdose deaths involving amphetamines, which is equivalent to 2.1 deaths per 100,000 people.

‘Following a period of relative stability, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving amphetamines has increased substantially from 2011 to 2020,’ Dr Peacock said.

‘The rate recorded in 2020 is the highest across the period of monitoring.

‘Although drug-induced deaths involving amphetamines may arise from a range of stimulants (e.g., methamphetamine, MDMA, dexamphetamine), composition of the Australian market and previous analysis of amphetamine deaths gives confidence that most of these cases relate to methamphetamine.

‘These findings reinforce the importance of substantial investment to develop more effective treatment options and maximise treatment access and coverage for methamphetamine dependence.’

‘In addition, these findings demonstrate the importance of a national overdose strategy which has clear indicators to end all overdoses,’ Jake Docker, CEO of the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) said. 

‘While we welcome the investment in naloxone to reduce opioid overdoses, the findings from this report clearly demonstrate that much more needs to be done to prevent overdoses resulting from methamphetamine and other stimulants.’ 

The full report is available here.