Alcohol and other Drugs

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Alcohol and drug use are known risk factors for intentional and unintentional injury and are commonly associated with assaults and self-harm. The association of alcohol and other drugs with injury varies by injury type, substance involved and population characteristics.

Alcohol-related deaths are a significant part of the global burden of disease with 4% of disease worldwide attributable in some way to alcohol. In Australia, approximately 15% of all external cause deaths in 2017 had alcohol listed as a factor in the death. Injury-related deaths collectively formed the largest proportion of deaths where alcohol was mentioned as an associated factor. Alcohol disrupts normal brain function, particularly relating to disinhibition, and this may contribute to an association with all forms of injury, including violence and suicide. Alcohol is also strongly associated with transport-related injury, burns, drowning, and falls.

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Key resources

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Other substances commonly associated with injury relate to poisoning, often in the context of overdose. Some overdoses are unintentional, for example, mistakenly taking too much prescribed medication or taking prescribed medication too often; or children may ingest medications that are left within their reach. In the context of the use of illicit substances, unintentional overdoses may be due to impurities in drugs or a concentration that is stronger than expected. Public health approaches to minimising harms associated with these unintentional overdoses include pill testing programs, supervised injecting centers, or peer-administered Naloxone.

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Read our latest position papers for alcohol and other drugs injury: