Each year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) makes available to Drug Trends in-depth data on drug-induced deaths in Australia. This year, we have produced a suite of products to summarise trends in drug-induced deaths in Australia from 1997 to 2017.

Our online interactive data visualisation tool allows you to view, disaggregate and download trends over time by drug, intent (e.g., accidental versus intentional), age group, sex and jurisdiction.

We have supplemented the data visualisations with:

  1. A bulletin summarising key findings
  2. A methods document highlighting approaches to collating and presenting estimates

Key findings:

  • Preliminary estimates indicate that there were 1,795 drug-induced deaths among Australians in 2017 (1,591 drug-induced deaths among Australians aged 15-64 years). The number of drug-induced deaths in 2017 is similar to the peak in deaths observed in the late 1990s.
  • The rate of drug-induced deaths has been increasing but has not reached the rate observed in 1999 (13.2 versus 9.8 deaths per 100,000 people aged 15-64 in 1999 versus 2017, respectively).
  • Consistent with previous years, most drug-induced deaths (72%) in 2017 among Australians aged 15-64 years were considered accidental; one in five (20%) were intentional (68% and 25% for Australians all ages, respectively).
  • Higher rates of drug-induced deaths were observed among males than females in 2017 (13.0 versus 6.7 deaths per 100,000 people aged 15-64; 9.4 versus 5.2 deaths per 100,000 all ages), consistent with previous years.
  • There has been a shift over time to higher rates of drug-induced deaths in older age groups among both males and females. In 2017, the highest rate of drug-induced deaths among females occurred among the 45-54 age group (10.5 deaths per 100,000 people) and among males in the 35-44 age group (20.9 deaths per 100,000 people).
  • Opioids are the main drug cited in drug-induced deaths occurring in Australians aged 15-64 (1,084 deaths, 6.7 deaths per 100,000 people; 1,171 deaths all-ages).
  • There are increasing rates of deaths involving other drugs in recent years. In particular, increasing drug-induced deaths involving psychotropic medicines (e.g., benzodiazepines, antipsychotics) and non-opioid medicines used for treatment of certain pain conditions (e.g., pregabalin) are of concern.
  • Natural and semi-synthetic opioids (e.g., morphine, oxycodone) have been the most commonly cited opioids in drug-induced deaths throughout monitoring. There have been particular increases in deaths involving heroin and synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl) over the past decade.
  • Deaths attributed to amphetamine (e.g., methamphetamine, MDMA) have increased since 2010 (93 deaths, 0.6 deaths per 100,000 people aged 15-64 in 2017; 94 deaths all-ages).

Data Source

These data are provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) from their cause of death collection. The data have been analysed and presented by Drug Trends at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW.

Latest release date

July 2019

Use of the data

Please note that any presentation of these data should include acknowledgment of Drug Trends at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales.

Citation: Chrzanowska, A., Dobbins, T., Degenhardt, L. & Peacock, A. (2019). Trends in drug-induced deaths in Australia, 1997-2017. Drug Trends Bulletin Series. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney.


Contact us at drugtrends@unsw.edu.au with any queries.



Agata Chrzanowska, Timothy Dobbins, Louisa Degenardt, and Amy Peacock
Date Commenced
25 Jun 2019
Resource Type
National Illicit Drug Indicatiors Project (NIDIP) Bulletins