Report reveals rise in rate of unintended deaths from drugs in regional Australia

A spike in unintentional drug- induced deaths has swept through Australia recently and according to a new report, regional and rural Australians are suffering the brunt of the rise.

The Pennington Institute’s Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2019 was released last month and found that from 2011 to 2017, the rate of unintentional drug-induced deaths in rural and regional Australia increased by 24 percent.

In capital cities, it increased by only five percent.

The Maryborough-Pyrenees region has experienced a 13 percent rise in unintentional drug-induced deaths (drug overdoses, wrong drugs given or taken in error, accidental poisoning due to drugs) since the 2003-7 period.

Eight deaths were recorded during that period while nine were recorded during 2013-17.

Maryborough District Health Service (MDHS) provides residents with drug and alcohol support services and director of clinical services, Nickola Allan, said while the health service does treat patients who have overdosed, she has not seen a huge increase in patients or deaths.

“We haven’t seen an increased prevalence through urgent care,” she said.

“We have had experience in the health service of managing people getting off prescription medication.

“We’re quite adept at doing that, unfortunately it’s something that we do see.”

According to the report, in regional areas benzodiazepines — commonly prescribed to relieve stress and anxiety and to help people sleep — was the most common cause of unintentional drug induced deaths while heroin and pharmaceutical opioids were also high on the list.

Ms Allan said people need to be aware of how the medication they’re taking works to avoid overdoses.

“Benzodiazepines are a common medication, they’re a restricted medicine that you absolutely need a prescription for,” she said.

For more on this story see the Front Page of The Advertiser, Friday, September 13


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