Drug deaths on the rise in Goldfields
A drug overdose crisis in Australia is claiming more lives in regional areas than ever before and the Goldfields and Esperance are no exceptions, a new nationwide report has found.
According to Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2018, released today by Victorian-based not-for-profit organisation Penington Institute, 20 people died of drug-related deaths in the Goldfields between 2012 and 2016, up from 13 between 2002 and 2006.
In Esperance the deaths increased by 10, from one to 11 across the two periods, while Bunbury experienced the biggest increase across regional WA, with an increase from 13 to 48 deaths.
Overall, the report found accidental drug-related deaths in rural Australia had grown significantly compared to metropolitan areas.
Penington Institute chief executive John Ryan said an increase of 10 deaths in the years spanning 2012 to 2016 compared to 2002 to 2006 (in Esperance) should act as a strong wakeup call.
“Sixty-five per cent of government investment tackling illicit drugs is spent on law enforcement to reduce supply,” he said.
“Just 22 per cent is spent on treatment, 9.5 per cent on prevention and 2.2 per cent on harm reduction.”
Goldfields Rehabilitation Services executive manager Jane Fajardo said the report’s findings were “horrifying, but not surprising”.
“Our experience is 50 to 70 per cent of the clients prior to coming to rehab were on sleeping pills, anxiety pills, pain killers on top of their methamphetamine, alcohol and other drug use.
“It is alarming because clients’ drug induced mental health state gets worse, clients can overdose and the addiction itself is a strong indication of serious health issues.
“I think it’s good to have a strong law enforcement but an intensive alcohol and drug community-based treatment program is a much needed service.”
Mr Ryan urged the Federal Government to take five key measures to address the growing issue of drug overdoses, including to increase drug treatment across Australia by 400 per cent.
The other recommendations were to review the prescribing of the pain killer fentanyl, to focus on drug use as a health not law enforcement issue, to set up a Productivity Commission review of the current drug policy and to encourage doctors to write more naloxone scripts — an opioid overdose-reversing drug.
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