DRUG CRISIS

INCREASING: The number of alcohol and ice-related incidents attended by central Victorian paramedics has soared during the past year.

INCREASING: The number of alcohol and ice-related incidents attended by central Victorian paramedics has soared during the past year.

THE number of alcohol and ice-related incidents attended by central Victorian paramedics has soared during the past year.

The latest Trends in Alcohol and Drug Related Ambulance Attendances in Victoria report has prompted experts to call for a united approach to tackle crystal methamphetamine across the state.

The report, produced by Turning Point in conjunction with Ambulance Victoria, shows a 198 per cent increase in ice-related call-outs across regional Victoria, and a large increase in alcohol-related attendances.

The number of alcohol-related call-outs in Bendigo jumped from 145 in 2011-12 to 219.8 in 2012-13.

Most call-outs were on Saturdays and Sundays and the peak time was in the early hours within regional areas.

Call-outs to people affected by crystal methamphetamine, commonly known as ice, increased from  6.1 in 2011-12 in Bendigo to 23.1 in 2012-13.

Geelong recorded the highest number of ice call-outs, followed by La Trobe, Moorabool, Horsham and Bendigo.

The number of call-outs to ice-related matters co-attended by police significantly increased.

The peak day for ice use was Friday and the peak time across regional Victoria was between 6pm and midnight.

Turning Point researcher Dr Belinda Lloyd said the figures were of concern and a community approach was needed.

“Government, health agencies, law enforcement, community groups, businesses and local residents must come together to address these issues and discuss possible solutions,’’ she said.

Paramedics also attended more opioid analgesic-related incidents, with a jump from 10.8 to 23.1 in Bendigo.  The number of opioid call-outs involving alcohol dropped.

The peak day for opioid use was Sunday throughout regional Victoria, and Wednesday in Melbourne.

Call-outs to cannabis, ecstasy, inhalants and other analgesics including aspirin, ibuprofen and paracetamol also jumped across the state.

Benzodiazepoine (or tranquiliser) related incidents were the second most common reason for call-outs across the state.

Fewer were attended in public spaces, but more were attended by police and there was an increase in the number of people in this category transported hospital.

Paramedics attended 4.8 heroin call-outs in Bendigo, with the peak time for heroin use being between 6pm and midnight across regional Victoria and the most common day for heroin use being Tuesday.

The number of anti-depressant related call-outs rose only slightly in Bendigo, but the report found that across regional Victoria the number of cases involving alcohol dropped while the number of patients transported to hospital increased.

However, the number of antipsychotic-related attendances in Bendigo increased from 20.6 to 51.1, but there was also a decrease in the number of call-outs also involving alcohol.

The report found that across regional Victoria, there were large decreases in the proportions of cannabis, ecstasy, antidepressant and cocaine-related offences where alcohol was involved.

Penington Institute chief executive John Ryan said the “startling overdose call-out data suggested the overall alcohol and drug toll was rising’’.

 “There are no good numbers in this data,” he said.

“Overdose rates are rising with alcohol, crystal meth and pharmaceutical opioids. It is truly shocking.

“The ratio of alcohol call-outs to population is rising fast.”

 Mr Ryan said “while the road toll drops the alcohol and drug toll is soaring’’.

“There needs to be comprehensive prevention and education strategy to fully inform people of overdose risk,’’ he said.

 “In regional Victoria crystal meth callouts have shot up from 78 in 2011/2012 to more than 230 in 2012-13,” he said.

 “This sharp rise confirms the rising toll that crystal meth is taking on individuals and the community. It has risen as methamphetamine purity rose from around 30 per cent in mid-2010 to more than 75 per cent during 2012/2013.’’

Mr Ryan said recent coronial data showed that in Victoria, the number of overdose deaths involving methamphetamine were: 14 in 2010, 29 in 2011, 34 in 2012 and 50 in 2013.

 He said it was concerning that opioid painkiller callouts had risen sharply, including in regional areas where there is less access to heroin.

 “As opioid medication prescriptions rise, so do overdoses,’’ he said.

“It reinforces the need to urgently get wheels turning faster on real-time prescription monitoring systems.’’

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