Three Australians die from opioid use every day and 150 are hospitalised because of the drugs, new research reveals.
An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report released on Friday shows more than three million Australians had an opioid prescription, while about 715,000 used pharmaceutical opioids for non-medical uses in 2016-17.
In the same period, 40,000 Australians were using heroin.
Opioids provide pain relief and can be obtained legally, such as codeine and morphine and also illegally, in heroin and opium.
The study reiterates the rising number of deaths caused by opioids in Australia, with a recent study from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre also showing deaths from the drugs have doubled over the past decade.
"The number of deaths in 2016 is the highest recorded since a peak of 1245 in 1999, when the rate was around seven deaths per 100,000 people," AIHW spokeswoman Lynelle Moon says.
"In the case of both deaths and hospitalisations, pharmaceutical opioids were more likely to be responsible than illegal opioids."
In the decade to 2016, hospitalisations because of opioid poisoning increased by 25 per cent.
Opioid prescriptions are available under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, with oxycodone, codeine and tramadol the most commonly prescribed in 2016-17.
The report was a joint collaboration with the Canadian Institute for Health Information, also showing illicit use of fentanyl was more common in Canada, while heroin use was higher in Australia.
Australian Associated Press