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Opioid Epidemic in Australia

"69% of drug related deaths come from prescription medications in Australia"

This infographic describes what health experts have called the 'opioid epidemic' in Australia. It's an over prescription of addictive pain killers leading to a record number of deaths. In 2016, the Penington Institute Australia released its Annual Overdose Report, based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This report revealed some alarming statistics on the current state of opioid prescription and associated death.

The team here at The Back Clinic have summarised and fully referenced the results in an infographic below. If you like this infographic, please feel free to share (with a reference to this page).


Opioid Epidemic Infographic

Opioid epidemic infographic


What do you think?

The key findings from Penington Institute Australia's Annual Overdose Report are alarming.

  • 69% of drug related deaths in Australia are from prescription medications, not illicit drugs
  • Between 2004 and 2014 there was a 61% increase in prescription opioid deaths
  • Over prescription of opioids is correlated with increase in accidental and overdose death
  • Similar trends are emerging in other countries including the U.S.A
  • Many opioid prescriptions are for musculoskeletal problems including back pain
  • Several chiropractors are reporting on this

Chiropractic should be considered as a first treatment option for musculoskeletal problems, with addictive opioid prescriptions considered later. Additionally, medical practitioners should feel confident working with chiropractors in reducing over-prescription of pain killers for musculoskeletal issues.

Please share this research brief with your friends and family. Simply reference either this page or and you may use this visual on your own website or to share with your own patients.


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  1. Harrison CM, Charles J, Henderson J, et al. Opioid prescribing in Australian general practice. Med J Aust 2012;196:380–1.
  2. Penington Institute Australia’s Annual Overdose Report – 2016. Based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
  3. Rubinstein SM, van Middelkoop M, Assendelft WJJ, de Boer MR, van Tulder MW. Spinal manipulative therapy for chronic low-back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD008112.
  4. Chou R, Qaseem A, Snow V, Casey D, Cross JT, Shekelle P, et al. Diagnosis and Treatment of Low Back Pain: A Joint Clinical Practice Guideline from the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society. Ann Intern Med. 2007;147:478-491.
  5. UK BEAM Trial Team. United Kingdom back pain exercise and manipulation (UK BEAM) randomised trial: effectiveness of physical treatments for back pain in primary care. BMJ. 2004 Dec 11;329(7479):1377. Epub 2004 Nov 19.
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  7. Jeffrey Freund, PharmD Connie Kraus, PharmD Christopher Hooper-Lane, MA. How effective are opioids for chronic low back pain? J Fam Pract. 2015 September;64(9):584-585.
  8. Roelofs PDDM, Deyo RA, Koes BW, Scholten RJPM, van Tulder MW. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD000396.