Age of opioid pharmacotherapy patients increasing, report says

Doug Hendrie

10/04/2018 3:44:51 PM

The median age of opioid pharmacotherapy patients is increasing, according to a recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report.

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The AIHW report found the median age of patients using opioid replacements in Australia is now 42, up from 38 in 2011.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) ‘National opioid pharmacotherapy statistics annual data (NOPSAD) 2017’, the median age of patients using opioid replacements such as methadone is now 42 years, up from 38 in 2011. At the same time, there has been a decline in the proportion of patients under 30, from 28% in 2006 to 7% last year.
Australia has around 50,000 people receiving the therapy, a number that has remained relatively stable since 2010. Two thirds of patients receiving pharmacotherapy are male, and around one in 10 are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.
RACGP Expert Committee – Quality Care (REC–QC) Chair Dr Evan Ackermann told newsGP the results may indicate fewer younger people are becoming addicted to opioids like heroin or oxycodone.
‘People have been on this [therapy] for many years now and they’re just getting older, because it’s a chronic relapsing condition and they are getting older,’ he said.
Dr Ackermann predicted that the number of people addicted to codeine would drop after the drug was up-scheduled in February.
The AIHW findings come after a recent report on Australia’s wastewater found methamphetamine was far and away the most popular illegal drug in Australia, with heroin trailing far behind. 
Of the opioid drugs of dependence, heroin remains the most common by far at 38% of patients, with oxycodone far below that at 5%, followed by morphine, codeine and methadone, all at 4%.
The 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that methamphetamines (including ice) were  the drugs causing most concern to communities. However, prescription drugs caused the greatest number of deaths.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that Australia had 1808 drug-induced deaths in 2016, the highest rate of death since the heroin surge of the late 1990s.
‘In 2016, an individual dying from a drug-induced death in Australia was most likely to be a middle aged male, living outside of a capital city who is misusing prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines or oxycodone in a polypharmacy [the use of multiple drugs] setting,’ the ABS report states.  
‘The death was most likely to be an accident. This profile is quite different from that in 1999, where a person who died from a drug induced death was most likely to be younger [early 30s] with morphine, heroin or benzodiazepines detected on toxicology at death.’

AIHW drug-induced-death opioid-pharmacotherapy


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