Alcohol and illicit drugs responsible for one in every 20 deaths in Australia

Amanda Lyons

29/03/2018 3:09:51 PM

Alcohol and illicit drugs are behind nearly one in every 20 Australian deaths, new figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare have revealed.

Alcohol and illicit drugs were responsible for 6660 Australian deaths in 2011.
Alcohol and illicit drugs were responsible for 6660 Australian deaths in 2011.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) Impact of alcohol and illicit drug use on the burden of disease and injury in Australia found that alcohol and illicit drugs were together found to be responsible for 6.7% of Australia’s combined fatal and non-fatal disease burden.
When the types of burden were separated, alcohol and illicit drugs were responsible for 8.1% of Australia’s fatal burden and 5.2% of its non-fatal burden. Additionally, a higher proportion of the burden of alcohol and illicit drugs was fatal than non-fatal.

The AIHW report used 2011 data from the Australian burden of disease study which was published in 2016.
‘Alcohol and illicit drugs were responsible for 4.5% of all deaths in Australia in 2011, equating to 6660 deaths, or about one in every 20 deaths,’ AIHW spokesperson Dr Lynelle Moon said.
Alcohol on its own causes 4.6% of all disease burden, one third of which is attributable to alcohol dependence. But there is some good news in relation to alcohol use.
‘The burden from alcohol use fell by around 7% between 2003 and 2011, and further reductions are expected by 2020 based on these trends,’ Dr Moon said.
On its own, illicit drug use accounts for 2.3% of Australia’s disease burden, which is half as much as alcohol. Opioids currently account for the largest proportion of the illicit drug use burden at 41%, but burden from unsafe injecting practices is expected to fall by 21% for males and 17% for females. Burden from cocaine use by males is also expected to decline by 24%.
However, expected declines do not extend to all types of illicit drug use. Burden from the use of amphetamines is expected to rise by 14% between 2011 and 2020, while the burden of disease for female cannabis users is expected to rise by 36%. 
AIHW chief executive officer Barry Sandison said he hopes the information from the report can help build an evidence base for public policy and service delivery relating to drug and alcohol use in Australia.
‘It is important to continue to report using the latest available information as well as work towards filling gaps in the data,’ he said. ‘This is essential to improving the evidence base on this important issue.’
The purpose of the report was to calculate the ‘fatal burden’, which is years of life lost from early death, and the ‘non-fatal’ burden, which is years of healthy life lost due to disease or injury, caused by the use of alcohol and drugs in the Australian population.

AIHW alcohol-and-illicit-drugs Australian-Institute-of-Health-and-Welfare

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