Quantifying the social costs of pharmaceutical opioid misuse and illicit opioid use to Australia
In recent decades the range and patterns of opioids used for extra-medical purposes have changed. The use of pharmaceutical opioids exceeds the use of heroin. In 2017, 63 percent of opioid deaths were attributed exclusively to pharmaceutical opioids, 28 percent to illicit opioids and 8 percent to both illicit and pharmaceutical opioids (aged 15-64 years).
The objective of this report was to estimate the social costs arising from extra-medical opioid use in Australia for the financial year 2015/16. Due to data limitations in most cases we only estimated the costs occurring in this 12-month period. For example, on-going care of chronic conditions was not included. The exceptions to this were for certain harms which occurred in 2015/16 but which had longer-term ramifications, for example premature deaths, where discounted streams of future costs (lost economic activity and lost contributions to household chores) and partially offsetting savings (future health expenditure ’avoided’ by premature deaths) were estimated. The authors also included the long-term costs of road traffic accidents, as were the expected future costs of opioid attributable imprisonment for those sentenced in 2015/16.
For complete report go to APO – Quantifying the social costs of pharmaceutical opioid misuse
Policy Reflection: The misuse of OST (Opioid Substitute Treatments) or MAT (Medically Assisted Treatments) or any other opioid pharmaceutical displacement mechanism that does not have a sunset clause to usage, will continue to be a major contributor to both morbidity and mortality. This can either occur over a longer time simply due to the toxic nature of persistent opioid use on the human biological unit; or short term, by direct misuse of the legal opioid for ‘recreational’ or self-harming purposes, by either the client or their network.
This growing issue continues to be overlooked or deliberately discounted by certain sectors. Which means that this, arguably well-meaning, but poorly implemented ‘harm reduction’ mechanism, continues to add to the drug using cohort and the increasing harms this ‘pairing’ collectively bring.
The net result of a no-exit, perpetual use of opioids, whether licit or illicit, only causes harm, the very thing the policy pillar was supposed to reduce.
If sunset clauses and exit strategies are not harnessed to these chemical mechanisms, then we will only see these harms grow, along with an ever-burgeoning pressure and cost to the health-care system. This is not best practice health care, and no longer rates as a positive ‘net community benefit’ economic rationale either.
Reducing drug use is the primary objective of the National Drug Strategy, and in both its intent and specifics does not promote, or we would argue, condone this policy and people failing measure.
Drug use exiting recovery is not only possible, but consistently achieved when actively facilitated in its best practice format too.
We will leave you with a very provocative quote (now 14 years old) but perhaps even more relevant today? A statement that could have only been published then, but with the ‘cancel culture outrage’ in play at present, may well be ignored now and for the very reasons it confronts.
“The medical profession and the addicted community have a complex, symbiotic, mutually dependent relationship that does none of us any good. Basically, they pretend to be ill and we pretend to treat them. And thousands of public employees make a good living out of it. Prescribing for opiate addicts is like throwing petrol on a fire; pointless, counterproductive, stupid, self-defeating. And yet we keep doing it.” Dr Phil Peverley, PULSE, 22 June 2006