Midwest Times

WA records highest rate of drug deaths in the nation

- ANGELA POWNALL

WA has recorded the highest rate of drug deaths in Australia for the third year running, a new report reveals.

Drugs caused the deaths of 264 West Australian­s in 2019, a rate of almost 10 people per 100,000 compared with the national death rate of just over seven.

Middle-aged West Australian­s are dying the most, with 75 people aged 45 to 54 losing their lives to drugs that year.

The National Drug and Alcohol

Research Centre report, which was released yesterday, also recorded an increase in deaths involving amphetamin­es and cocaine.

The amphetamin­e death toll has soared in WA in recent years, from 16 in 2012 to 84 in 2019, a shocking 425 per cent rise.

Nationally, deaths from cocaine use have more than doubled since 2016, from 34 deaths to 86 in 2019.

The majority — 64 per cent, or 170 — of WA’s drug deaths were men, and 75 per cent — or 198 — were unintentio­nal.

One in four drug-induced deaths nationally was considered to be intentiona­l.

There was a 21 per cent increase from 2018 to 2019 in deaths of West Australian­s aged 45 to 54, who account for a third of all WA drug deaths.

There was also an increase in deaths among people aged 15 to 24 in 2019, with 15 young West Australian­s dying because of drugs.

Amy Peacock, from the NDARC’s drug trends program, said preliminar­y records indicated there were 1865 druginduce­d deaths in Australia in 2019.

“This is the fifth year in a row where the number of druginduce­d deaths is higher than the earlier peak in deaths in the late 1990s (1740 deaths in 1999),” she said.

The report included data on psychosoci­al risk factors for the first time. Researcher­s found at least one psychosoci­al risk factor was present in 24 per cent of unintentio­nal deaths and 62 per cent of intentiona­l deaths.

“The most frequent psychosoci­al risk factor identified in coroner-certified drug-induced deaths was personal history of selfharm,” Dr Peacock said.

There were 1121 opioid-induced deaths and a shift to more deaths involving heroin than natural and semi-synthetic opioids, such as morphine or oxycodone.

A study from Curtin University’s National Drug Research Institute revealed last year that opioid and heroin abuse kills 2203 Australian­s and costs the national economy $15.7 billion each year.

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