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The number of clients being treated for dependence on opioid drugs such as heroin increased by over 2,000 in 2009, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

'From 2004 to 2007 treatment figures remained relatively stable, but since then there has been an increase of over 4,600 clients being treated for dependence on opioid drugs,' said Amber Jefferson of the AIHW's Drug Surveys and Services Unit.

According to the National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics Annual Data Collection: 2009 report, there were 43,445 clients being treated with medication for opioid dependence on 30 June 2009, compared to 41,347 in 2008.

The majority of clients (86%) were between 20 and 49 years of age and the largest proportion of clients (40%) were in the 30 to 39 age group.

There was a fall in the proportion of clients who were 29 years of age or younger while the proportion of those aged 40 to 49 rose slightly.

'Men make up the majority of clients (65%), and this proportion has been stable for some years,' Ms Jefferson said.

The report shows that the number of prescribers fell slightly between 2008 and 2009 from 1,393 to 1,350, while the average number of clients per prescriber rose from 18 to 20 over the same period.

Public and private opioid pharmacotherapy clinics and participating pharmacies dispense prescribed opioid substitutes used in maintenance treatment programs to prevent withdrawal.

These opioid substitutes include methadone, buprenorphine or the combination product buprenorphine/naloxone.

The majority of clients (70%) received methadone, while the remainder received buprenorphine or buprenorphine/naloxone.

In addition to the 2009 report, the AIHW also released the data guide for the 2010 report. The National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics Annual Data (NOPSAD) 2010 collection data guide, is a useful guide for those involved in collecting data for the National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics Annual Data Collection.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Further information: Ms Amber Jefferson, tel. 02 6244 1137, mob. 0423 866 309

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

National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistical Annual Data collection: 2009 report