Publications & Reports

Estimating the costs of drug-related hospital separations in Australia.

Steven Riddell, Marian Shanahan, Louisa Degenhardt, Amanda Roxburgh
The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


OBJECTIVE: To estimate the total hospital costs of drug-related separations in Australia from 1999/2000 to 2004/05, and separate costs for the following illicit drug classes: opioids, amphetamine, cannabis and cocaine. METHODS: Australian hospital separations between 1999/2000 to 2004/05 from the National Hospital Morbidity Dataset (NHMD) with a principal diagnosis of opioids, amphetamine, cannabis or cocaine were included, as were indirect estimates of additional ‘drug-caused’ separations using aetiological fractions. The costs were estimated using the year-specific case weights and costs for each respective Diagnostic Related Group (DRG). RESULTS: Total constant costs decreased from $50.8 million in 1999/2000 to $43.8 million in 2002/03 then increased to $46.7 million in 2004/05. The initial decrease was driven by a decline in numbers of opioid-related separations (with costs decreasing by $11.5 million) between 1999/2000 and 2001/02. Decreases were evident in separations within the opioid use, dependence and poisoning DRGs. Increases in costs were observed between 1999/00 and 2004/05 for amphetamine (an increase of $2.4 million), cannabis ($1.8 million) and cocaine ($330,000) related separations. Several uncommon but very expensive drug-related separations constituted 12.7% of the total drug-related separations. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Overall, the costs of drug-related hospital separations have decreased by $4.1 million between 1999 and 2005, which is primarily attributable to fewer opioid-related separations. Small reductions in the number of costly separations through harm reduction strategies have the potential to significantly reduce drug-related hospital costs.


  • Journal: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
  • Published: 01/04/2008
  • Volume: 32
  • Issue: 2
  • Pagination: 156-161