DRUG overdoses are on the rise, with 41 drug-related deaths in Bendigo in five years.
A report released today by the Penington Institute highlights the toll of drugs – both licit and illicit – in Australia, with regional areas hit hardest.
In Bendigo, 10 more people died of drug-related reasons from 2012 – 16 than from 2002 – 06, when 31 people lost their lives.
Penington Institute chief executive John Ryan said the figures should act as a strong wake-up call.
“The number of drug-related deaths in Bendigo is trending upwards and that is a major concern,” he said.
Mr Ryan spoke similarly of the lives lost in other regional centres.
DATA: Drug-related deaths in regional Victoria
Eleven people died in Maryborough and the Pyrenees region from 2012-16, four more than in 2002-06.
Drugs have claimed 108 lives in Ballarat since 2002, with 21 deaths in the five years to 2016.
In Geelong, 84 people died of drug-related causes from 2012-16, five more than in 2002-06.
There were 16 drug-related deaths in Warrnambool in 2016, and 29 in the region including Horsham and Ararat.
Mr Ryan said opioids was the most fatal drug type in Bendigo and elsewhere from 2001 – 2016.
The drug class includes illicit substances like heroin, as well as medications used such as codeine, oxycodone and fentanyl. Uses for such medications include pain treatment.
Prescription opioid deaths shot up 87 per cent between 2008-14, nationwide.
DATA: Drug-related deaths in Murray Primary Health Network region
Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2018 revealed Australians were misusing and abusing prescription pain killers and opioids like fentanyl unlike any previous time in history.
It recommended the federal government review the prescribing of fentanyl, which the Penington Institute said had ‘gone through the roof’.
Other recommendations included increasing drug treatment across Australia by 400 per cent, as only one-in-four people in need of treatment were receiving help.
The Penington Institute said drug use matters needed to be framed as a health issue rather than a law enforcement issue.
“Most overdoses are pharmaceutical but most attention is on supply and border control,” it said in a statement.
It recommended doctors be encouraged to write scripts for naxolone, the opioid-reversing drug, and that the Productivity Commission review current drug policy.
Friday is International Overdose Awareness Day – an opportunity to support people with issues with alcohol and other drugs.
“We need more education. We desperately need more support for Australian families,” Mr Ryan said.
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