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Over 41,000 clients were being treated for dependence on opioid drugs such as heroin as at 30 June 2008, according to the National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics Annual Data collection: 2008 Report, released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report provides information and statistics about the characteristics of those being treated for opioid drug dependence, the different types of treatments and medication dispensing arrangements.
Report author Amber Jefferson said there was an increase in the number clients in 2008 compared with each of the previous three years.

'From 2005 to 2007 numbers remained relatively stable at around 39,000 people being treated for opioid drug dependence, but this rose to 41,347 in 2008,' she said.

'The proportion of male clients has remained the same at about two thirds,' she said.

Of the 41,347 clients being treated nationally, approximately 27,500 were male.

As in previous years, the about 65% of clients received treatment from a private prescriber. Prescribers in the public and corrections sectors also remained at similar levels, 27% and 7% respectively.

Over 85% of dosing sites were located in pharmacies.

Both the number of registered prescribers and the number of dosing point sites increased between 2006 and 2008.

According to the report, about 70% of all clients were receiving methadone and the remainder received buprenorphine or buprenorphine/naloxone.

The proportion of clients receiving the combination drug increased between 2006 and 2008.

'This combination product is now more commonly used as a treatment for opioid dependence than buprenorphine alone because it is believed the combination product reduces the risk of inappropriate use,' Ms Jefferson said.

The proportion of clients receiving the single buprenorphine product continues to decrease while the proportion of clients receiving methadone has remained relatively stable over the same three year period.

Methadone and buprenorphine are prescribed heroin substitutes. Naloxone reverses the effects of opioids and buprenorphine/naloxone prevents withdrawal symptoms.

Thursday 21 May 2009

Further information: Ms Amber Jefferson, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1137, mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.

Availability: Check the AIHW Publications area for the availability of National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics Annual Data collection: 2008 Report.