Kyabram Free Press

Overdose deaths up in region

- By Max Stainkamph

The region recorded its highest number of overdose deaths last year since 2015, according to data released by the Coroners Court of Victoria.

The report showed 526 Victorians died from fatal overdoses in 2020, with 20 of them in the local government areas of Campaspe, Moira, Mitchell, Greater Shepparton, Benalla and Strathbogi­e.

Seventeen people died in the same areas in 2019, up from 12 in 2018.

Six people in Campaspe died of an overdose in 2020 and seven in the Greater Shepparton area, while four deaths from overdoses were recorded in Mitchell Shire. One death each was recorded in Benalla, Moira and Strathbogi­e shires.

State-wide, alcohol contribute­d to 154 of the 526 Victorian overdose deaths, the second most on record.

Victorian Alcohol and Drug Associatio­n executive officer Sam Biondo said lockdowns and stay-at-home orders helped contribute to increased alcohol consumptio­n.

“We know the way people consumed alcohol changed dramatical­ly under COVID-19, with an increase in drinking occurring in the home, often in isolation,” he said.

“It is not surprising that alcohol has made such a strong contributi­on to overdoses in 2020, nor is it surprising that 2020 marked the highest rate of alcohol solely contributi­ng to fatal overdose.”

Benzodiaze­pines were the largest contributo­r to overdoses, accounting for more than half of all overdose deaths.

Mr Biondo said pharmaceut­icals continued to make the biggest contributi­on to fatal overdose, despite a small decrease on previous years, and said more support was required for people in need.

Heroin deaths across the state dipped from 212 to 187 from 2019-20, while MDMA, cocaine and GHB contributi­ons to fatal overdoses all increased.

Young people were adversely affected by overdoses last year compared to 2019, with the 18- to 24-year-old category recording 32 deaths compared to 23 in 2019 and those aged 25 to 34 jumping from 68 in 2019 to 94 last year. Young men were much more likely to overdose, with 27 18- to 24-year-old men dying from overdoses in 2020 compared to five women.

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