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Drug overdose in Australia

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

Australia's Annual Overdose Report 2020 ( ), released by the Penington Institute, tells us, without a doubt, that drug overdose is a major health issue in Australia.

Drug overdose does not only happen in dark allies in our big cities. It can and does occur right across the country, right across the population, amongst people who use both illicit and prescription medication.

Interestingly from a workplace perspective, death from unintentional overdose is more likely to occur among middle aged males. Middle aged males represent a significant portion of the Australian workforce. As such, drug use not only carries a significant personal risk to the user, but also potential safety risks in the workplace.

Here are some key findings from the latest report:

2,070 Australians died of drug overdoses in 2018. In comparison, 276 Australians died from drowning and 1,195 Australians were killed on our roads last year.

  • · Of particular concern is that 75% of total overdose deaths (1,556 deaths) were unintentional. That translates to 4 unintentional overdose deaths every day in 2018.

  • · Men account for more than 70 per cent of all unintentional overdose deaths.

  • · Middle-aged Australians (30-59 years) have the highest incidence of unintentional drug-induced mortality.

  • · The rate of unintentional drug-induced death remains higher for Aboriginal Australians than for non-Aboriginal Australians

  • · For the first time since 2003, more Australians died of overdoses involving heroin than other opioids, commonly prescribed by doctors.

  • · Opioids continue to be the most commonly identified drug in overdose deaths, with 900 unintentional opioid-related overdoses in 2018.

  • · The use of 4 or more substances, known as polydrug use, continues to be the most quickly increasing overdose trend, rising sharply from 163 overdoses in 2013 to 582 in 2018.

If you are concerned about the risk of drugs and alcohol in your workplace, DASA can help. Our expert team can assist with policy development, testing, education and advice. Get in touch via or call 02 8001 2535.


DASA (Drug and Alcohol Solutions Australia) is proud to be leading the way in workplace drug and alcohol services throughout Australia. Whether your need is for workplace drug testing and workplace alcohol testing, advice on drug and alcohol policy or ideas on how to communicate your workplace expectations, policies and procedures to your staff, DASA can help. We have the experience, technical expertise and people to lead you to the right solution.


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