UNINTENTIONAL overdose deaths across the state have continued to rise in regional Victoria, new data has shown.
Tuesday, August 31 marked International Overdose Awareness Day.
Forty-seven people died from an unintentional overdose in Bendigo between 2015 and 2019, according to the Penington Institute Australia's Annual Overdose Report.
The report found that 2227 Australians died of overdose in 2019, three quarters of which were unintentional.
Overdose deaths also increased by 25 per cent during 2009-2019.
Penington Institute chief executive John Ryan said the overdose carries a stigma that at a community level is hard to overcome.
He said by ignoring it, overdose deaths continue to surge.
"This needs to stop now. We need to stop trying to police our way out of drug overdose, and instead tackle it as the health crisis that it is," Mr Ryan said.
"Australia had a National Heroin Overdose Strategy twenty years ago. Almost all the recommendations could still be implemented.
"While it's gathered dust, almost 35,000 Australians have died of preventable overdoses, many including pharmaceutical drugs, not just heroin.
"With every day that passes without a commitment to a National Overdose Prevention Strategy, we are letting Australians die of entirely preventable causes. It's not okay. And it needs to change today."
Number of unintentional drug-induced deaths by state or territory, 2001-2019:
Opioids were detected in 882 unintentional overdose deaths in 2019, while benzodiazepines (sedatives) were detected in 582 unintentional overdose deaths and stimulants (e.g. ice) were found in 470 such deaths.
The rate of unintentional overdose deaths has been higher in regional Victoria than Greater Melbourne every year since 2005, running at 8.7 per 100,000 people compared to 6.1 in Melbourne.
Since 2012, the rate of drug-induced suicides has increased 38.5 per cent in the regions, while the rate in capital cities has increased 13.3 per cent.
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