Drug-related deaths up threefold

Jessica CuthbertAlbany Advertiser
Generic drugs.
Camera IconGeneric drugs. Credit: WA News

Drug-related deaths in Albany and the Great Southern have nearly tripled in the past few years, a new report has revealed.

Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2018, produced by not-for-profit organisation Penington Institute has revealed deaths from drug overdose have nearly tripled in the past few years and experts say the figures are alarming.

Figures show 27 people died of a drug-related death in Albany and surrounding areas from 2012-16, compared to eight such deaths from 2002-06.

This includes deaths that are accidental, suicidal, homicidal and those of undetermined intent.

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Penington Institute chief executive John Ryan said the figures were alarming.

“The number of drug-related deaths is trending upwards and that is a major concern,” he said.

“An increase of 19 deaths in the years spanning 2012-16 compared to 2002-06 should act as a strong wake-up call. From 2001-2016, the drug type claiming the most lives in the area is, unsurprisingly, opioids such as codeine, heroin, oxycodone and fentanyl.”

The new report reveals sleeping tablets/anxiety tablets, known as “benzos” have become a hidden epidemic, killing a large number of Australians each year.

Deaths involving amphetamines, including crystal methamphetamine have grown considerably in the past five years.

The report also shows the rate of accidental drug-related death in rural Australia has grown significantly, compared to metropolitan Australia. Mr Ryan said overdoses usually happened accidentally, saying 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,” he said.

Palmerston Albany manger Ben Headlam said a range of sources had shown deaths relating to overdose of prescription and over-the-counter opioids had been increasing, and a higher number of people over age 50 were being affected.

“Earlier this year, over-the-counter opioids were made prescription-only and prescription opioids such as morphine were up-scheduled, now requiring stricter conditions — the benefits of these legislation changes are perhaps yet to be fully observed,” he said

“We have not directly witnessed these impacts at Palmerston; evidence to suggest that a higher rate of people have died due to overdose in Albany over the past several years suggests that those who are impacted by these medications are perhaps not identifying as needing the support of Palmerston.”

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Palmerston Great Southern Alcohol and Drug Service — 9892 2100

Alcohol and Drug Support Line — 1800 198 024

Lifeline — 13 11 14

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