Each year, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) makes available to Drug Trends in-depth data on drug-related hospitalisations in Australia from the National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD). This year, we have produced a suite of products to summarise trends in drug-related hospitalisations in Australia from 1999 to 2018.

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; and
  2. A Methods document highlighting approaches to collating and presenting estimates.
  3. Summary documents describing trends in drug-related hospitalisations for each jurisdiction: ACTNSWNTQldSATasVicWA.

Key findings:

  • There were 60,627 drug-related hospital separations among Australians in 2017-18, equivalent to 0.5% of all hospital separations in Australia. 
  • The age-standardised rate of drug-related hospital separations was relatively stable between 1999-00 and 2009-10, increasing subsequently from 199 hospitalisations per 100,000 people in 2010-11 to 272 in 2015-16 and 2016-17. The rate in 2017-18 (250 hospitalisations per 100,000 people) represents a decline relative to the previous two years yet remains higher than rates observed in earlier years of monitoring. 
  • In 2017-18, males accounted for 51% of drug-related hospitalisations. This is a reversal of findings up until 2014-15 where drug-related hospitalisations more commonly involved females than males.
  • In 2017-18, the highest rates of drug-related hospital separations were observed among the 20-29 and the 30-39 age groups. 
  • In 2017-18, the greater proportion of drug-related hospital separations was attributable to amphetamines and other stimulants (57 hospitalisations per 100,000 people, 23% of drug-related hospitalisations).
  • In 2017-18, natural and semi-synthetic opioids (e.g., oxycodone, morphine) were responsible for over 50% of all hospitalisations due to opioid poisoning. The rate of hospitalisations involving natural and semi-synthetic opioids more than doubled from 1999-00 to 2017-18 (3.5 to 8.1 hospitalisations per 100,000 people, respectively).
  • The rate of cannabinoid-related hospitalisations increased from 11 to 25 per 100,000 people from 1999-00 to 2017-18.
  • Jurisdictional-level data suggest important differences in hospitalisations by drug type.

Data Source

These data are provided by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare from the National Hospital Morbidity Database. The data have been analysed and presented by Drug Trends at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW.

Latest release date

December 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.


Chrzanowska, A., Man, N., Degenhardt, L., Dobbins, T. & Peacock, A. (2019). Trends in drug-related hospitalisations in Australia, 1999-2018. 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, Nicola Man, Louisa Degenhardt, Timothy Dobbins, and Amy Peacock
Date Commenced
01 Nov 2019
Resource Type
National Illicit Drug Indicatiors Project (NIDIP) Bulletins