Publications & Reports

Underlying causes of cocaine, amphetamine and opioid related deaths in Australia.

Louisa Degenhardt, Amanda Roxburgh, Bridget Barker
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. [email protected]


OBJECTIVE: To examine the characteristics of deaths in Australia where opioids, cocaine or amphetamines were mentioned, taking into account changes in the use and availability of these drugs in recent years. DESIGN: Data were analysed from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Causes of Death dataset between 1997 and 2002 on all deaths in which cocaine, amphetamines or opioids were mentioned including deaths where (a) the drugs were considered an underlying cause of death, (b) the drugs contributed to accidental drug-induced death, and © deaths primarily due to other causes. Data from the Australian National Drug Strategy Household Survey were also used to examine the prevalence of use of amphetamines, cocaine and opioids in Australia. RESULTS: Thirteen deaths were attributed primarily to cocaine, 68 to amphetamines, and 4591 to opioids. An increase occurred in mentions of amphetamines, but half of these were primarily attributed to opioids. Opioid related deaths declined dramatically in 2001, consistent with a marked reduction in availability of heroin in Australia. Cocaine mentions remained relatively stable, with most cases primarily attributed to opioids. Of the other underlying causes of death, suicide was the most prevalent underlying factor, particularly for amphetamine and opioid related deaths. CONCLUSIONS: Compared with opioid-related deaths, there are small numbers of deaths related to psychostimulants in Australia. Accidental drug induced deaths account for the majority of deaths in which these drugs are mentioned, although minorities of drug related deaths are attributed to suicide.


  • Journal: Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine
  • Published: 01/08/2005
  • Volume: 12
  • Issue: 4
  • Pagination: 187-195