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The number of Australians receiving pharmacotherapy treatment for dependence on opioid drugs such as heroin continues to rise, and the proportion of older clients is also increasing, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The findings of the National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics Annual Data Collection: 2010 report show that on a snapshot day in 2010 there were over 46,000 clients who received pharmacotherapy for opioid dependence.

‘There was a rise of just over 2,600 clients between 2009 and 2010 which is consistent with the growth of pharmacotherapy treatment we have seen in recent years,’ said Amber Jefferson of the AIHW’s Drug Surveys and Services Unit.

‘Since 2006, there has been a shift towards older clients receiving treatment, with the proportion of clients aged 30 years and over rising from 72% to 82% and the proportion of clients aged under 30 falling in 2010.’

‘While the number of clients receiving pharmacotherapy for opioid dependence increased in 2010, the number of clients below the age of 30 has dropped since 2006.’

‘The ratio of male to female clients has remained the same over recent years, with males making up about two-thirds of all clients,’ Ms Jefferson said.

Also consistent with findings in previous years, methadone was the most common pharmacotherapy drug, with close to 7 out of 10 clients receiving this form of treatment. The remaining clients received either buprenorphine or buprenorphine/naloxone.

‘There was a small rise in the number of dosing point sites in Australia, up from 2,157 in 2009 to 2,200 in 2010,’ Ms Jefferson said.

Most opioid pharmacotherapy dosing point sites were located in pharmacies.

The number of clients per dosing point site across Australia has been rising slowly in recent years, with 21 clients per dosing site in 2010 compared with 19 in 2006.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia’s health and welfare.

Canberra, 22 June 2011

Further information: Ms Amber Jefferson, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1137, mob. 0418 271 395

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032

Full report: National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics Annual Data Collection: 2010 report