Re­port re­veals cri­sis in drug over­doses

Warragul & Drouin Gazette - - NEWS -

Drug re­lated deaths in West Gipp­s­land more than dou­bled in a four year pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to lat­est re­search.

An an­nual re­port has re­vealed a grow­ing cri­sis of drug over­doses in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and West Gipp­s­land is no ex­cep­tion.

Aus­tralia’s An­nual Over­dose Re­port re­leased last Tues­day iden­ti­fied a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple dy­ing from drug over­dose, which claimed 24 lives in West Gipp­s­land be­tween 2012 and 2016.

The num­ber of drug re­lated deaths, which in­cludes deaths that are ac­ci­den­tal, sui­ci­dal and homi­ci­dal, in­creased from just nine in West Gipp­s­land 10 years ear­lier be­tween 2002 and 2006.

The re­port, re­leased by not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion Pen­ing­ton In­sti­tute, warned Aus­tralia is on track to ex­pe­ri­ence a United States-style drug over­dose cri­sis with 2177 lives lost to drug over­dose in 2016.

The new re­port re­vealed sleep­ing tablets and anx­i­ety tablets (Ben­zo­di­azepines, also known as “ben­zos”) had be­come a hid­den epi­demic killing large num­ber of Aus­tralians each year.

The re­port also showed most over­doses in­volved a num­ber of drugs.

Pen­ing­ton In­sti­tute chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer John Ryan said the death toll was alarm­ing.

“Drug over­dose deaths are hurt­ing com­mu­ni­ties across the state and the West Gipp­s­land re­gion is no dif­fer­ent.

“In War­ragul and sur­round­ing ar­eas we have seen a steady climb in over­dose deaths and that is a real con­cern.

“From 2001 to 2016, the drug type claim­ing the most lives in the area is un­sur­pris­ingly opi­oids such as codeine, heroin, oxy­codone and fen­tanyl,” he said.

The new re­port showed a con­tin­u­ing trend that the rate of ac­ci­den­tal drug re­lated death in ru­ral Aus­tralia had grown sig­nif­i­cantly com­pared to met­ro­pol­i­tan Aus­tralia.

Mr Ryan said the re­port showed “ben­zos” had be­come the silent killer. From 2001 to2016 7088 Aus­tralians died through over­doses in­volv­ing Ben­zo­di­azepines.

Deaths in­volv­ing am­phet­a­mines (in­clud­ing crys­tal metham­phetamine or “ice”) have grown con­sid­er­ably in the past five years. Am­phet­a­mines now sur­pass al­co­hol as the third most com­mon sub­stance de­tected in ac­ci­den­tal drug re­lated deaths. For the pe­riod 2012 to 2016, there were 1237 deaths com­pared to 298 for the pe­riod 2002 to 2006. The new re­port also re­vealed: Mid­dle-aged Aus­tralians were more likely to die of an ac­ci­den­tal drug over­dose in Aus­tralia.

In 2016, 68 per cent of all ac­ci­den­tal drug deaths were peo­ple aged 30 to 59.

The peo­ple most likely to die of an ac­ci­den­tal drug over­dose are aged 40 to 49.

A grow­ing num­ber of women are now dy­ing from an ac­ci­den­tal drug over­doses.

Mr Ryan said Aus­tralians were now mis­us­ing and abus­ing pre­scrip­tion pain killers and opi­oids like fen­tanyl un­like any pre­vi­ous time in his­tory.

“There has been a mas­sive 87% in­crease in pre­scrip­tion opioid deaths from 2008 to 2014 in Aus­tralia.

“Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal opi­oids ac­count for 70 per cent of opioid re­lated deaths and about 45 per cent of all ac­ci­den­tal drug re­lated deaths.

Mr Ryan said over­doses usu­ally hap­pened ac­ci­den­tally and most of the deaths were caused by mul­ti­ple con­tribut­ing drugs, rather than a sin­gle drug.

“The drug fen­tanyl is enor­mous cause for alarm. It is a syn­thetic opioid, up to 100 times more pow­er­ful than pure mor­phine and it is a key and grow­ing part of Aus­tralia’s over­dose cri­sis. It is claim­ing more lives than ever be­fore.

“The num­ber of ac­ci­den­tal deaths in­volv­ing fen­tanyl, pethi­dine and tra­madol jumped nine times from 2001 to 2016,” he said.

Mr Ryan called on the fed­eral govern­ment to review pre­scrib­ing the pain killer fen­tanyl. treat­ment. He said the govern­ment also needed to fo­cus on drug use mat­ters as a health is­sue not law en­force­ment is­sue.

“Spend­ing pri­or­i­ties are wrong in Aus­tralia. Sixty five per cent of govern­ment in­vest­ment tack­ling il­licit drugs is spent on law en­force­ment to re­duce sup­ply. Just 22 per cent is spent on treat­ment; 9.5 per cent on pre­ven­tion and 2.2 per cent on harm re­duc­tion,” Mr Ryan said.

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