Fatal drug overdoses on the rise

Fatal drug overdoses in Tumut and Tumbarumba are on the rise compared to previous years, but still remain quite low, with five unintentional overdose deaths recorded between 2014 and 2018.

In the two previous five-year periods, there were between one and four deaths in the region, with the exact numbers unknown due to being so low.

The data comes from this year’s Annual Overdose Report from the Penington Institute.

Data contained in the report reveals that the neighbouring region of Wagga Wagga experienced a 50 per cent increase in unintentional overdose deaths in recent years, with 30 deaths recorded between 2014 and 2018.

Albury has recorded a 47 per cent increase in unintentional overdose deaths during the same period, and the Snowy Mountains has recorded a higher increase, at 140 per cent.

CEO of the Penington Institute, John Ryan, said that this year’s report reveals that for the fifth consecutive year over 2000 Australian’s lost their lives to overdose in a single calendar year.

“It is a grim landmark – and a brutal indictment of our governments’ narrow focus on controlling the supply of substances while failing to care enough for those who are already consuming and at risk of multiple harms including fatal overdose,” Mr Ryan said.

Mr Ryan said that the empirical effects of Covid-19 on Australia’s overdose toll will not be seen until the 2022 report due to the “careful but slow work” of classifying drug-related deaths.

“But, as evidence from overseas shows, Covid-19 is accelerating trends and exacerbating risk factors which are already detectable in this year’s Report,” he said.

The report found that while drugs and overdose tend to be associated with urban areas, the highest growth in unintentional drug-induced deaths has been occurring in regional settings.

It explained that from 2011 to 2018 the rate of unintentional drug-induced deaths in rural and regional Australia increased by 15.9 per cent, while the rate in capital cities increased by only 3.6 per cent.

It suggests that capacity in regional and rural areas can be increased through approaches such as the enhanced provision of naloxone (a medication used to block the effects of opioids), and greater resources for drug and alcohol treatment and support services.