The opioid snapshot

Photo by: Josh Estey/Flickr

New data reveals the largest increase for a decade in the number of patients receiving opioid dependency treatment 

On a snapshot day in 2020, over 53,300 clients received pharmacotherapy treatment for their opioid dependence at 3,084 dosing points across Australia, according to new data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The number of clients receiving opioids had jumped by 4.7% since 2019, the largest increase over the last decade, the AIHW said.   

The data was collected as part of the National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics Annual Data collection.

Among the findings were:   

  • On the snapshot day, 53,316 people in Australia were on a course of pharmacotherapy treatment for their opioid dependence, up 4.7% from the 2019 total.
  • New South Wales had the highest rate of people receiving opioid pharmacotherapy treatment (28 clients per 10,000 people)
  • The Northern Territory remained the jurisdiction with the lowest rate of people receiving treatment (6 clients per 10,000 people)
  • The highest proportion of clients fell within the 40–49 age group (36%), with 44 the median age.
  • Around 1 in 10 opioid pharmacotherapy clients identified as being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
  • There were 3,422 authorised prescribers of opioid pharmacotherapy drugs.
  • Nationally there were 3,084 dosing points in 2019–20, a 40% increase since 2010–11.
  • Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) dosing points were located in pharmacies
  • Most clients, irrespective of pharmacotherapy type, received their pharmacotherapy treatment at a pharmacy (71%) in 2020
  • On average, pharmacies dosed 14 clients per dosing point
  • Pharmacies were the most common dosing points for clients receiving methadone (71%), followed by public clinics (9.8%) and correctional facilities (7.4%).
  • For clients who received buprenorphine, 53% dosed at a pharmacy and 20% dosed at a public clinic.
  • For clients whose pharmacotherapy treatment was buprenorphine-naloxone, pharmacies were the most common dosing point (86% of clients) 
  • Nationally in 2020, 37% of clients reported heroin as their opioid drug of dependence. Oxycodone (5.7%) was the next most commonly reported drug of dependence followed by buprenorphine (4.9%) and methadone (both 4.0%) 

Go here to see the full report

Read addiction medicine pharmacist Angelo Pricolo’s thoughts on 2020 recommendations for treating methadone patients  


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