RECENT research has highlighted the growing problem of narcotics use Down Under, with Australia’s annual overdose report for 2019 indicating a 38 percent increase in drug-induced deaths between 2001 to 2017.
Carried out by the Penington Institute, the report, published last month, found 2,162 fatal overdoses in 2017 from both illegal and prescription drug use.
This figure has almost doubled the amount of people killed in motor vehicle accidents, which reached 1,225 in the same year.
“The rise in overdose deaths is linked to a range of highly potent drugs, including strong pharmaceutical painkillers and very pure crystal methamphetamine,” Penington Institute Chief Executive John Ryan said.
“The use of multiple drugs at once – often including alcohol and pharmaceutical sedatives like benzodiazepines – is further raising risk levels.”
Although men remain twice as likely to suffer a drug overdose than women, the report found a significant rise for both male and female.
Medical experts also recorded a marked increase in drug-induced deaths across regional Australian communities with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continuing to be “over-represented” in the alarming statistics.
With 1,612 of the 2,162 drug-induced deaths deemed to be accidental overdoses, Ryan said that “every death is a preventable tragedy that creates a years-long ripple effect.”
Calling for urgent action to be taken as Australia’s overdose risk profile continues to diversify, he added that although there is no simple solution, there’s already ample evidence on how to make overdose less frequent and less fatal.
“Community-wide and targeted education to potential overdose witnesses, expanded access to drug treatment including opioid agonist therapy, improved access to the opioid reversal drug naloxone, pain management and allied health will all help,” Ryan explained.
“Localized interventions for regional and rural communities that are community-led and based on partnership should also be expanded.
“If we just rely on supply-side interventions, patients may attempt to treat their pain or withdrawal symptoms with illicit opioids like heroin.”
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