Australian death toll due to accidental drug overdose is reaching an ever high. Its figures show a distressing 40% rise in the last decade. Strategic changes introduced through government initiatives, availability of the apparatus to reverse addiction, and general awareness to education the population on drugs may help mitigate this swelling crisis.
Overdose death figures are an open wound for Australia, with 1,600 citizens yielding to it in 2017 according to the revelations in Australia’s 2019 Annual Overdose Report. Prescription opioids and multiple drug use are said to be responsible for the distressing number. The report also alludes to heroin and methamphetamine overdoses that have seen an increased use in the country.
Australia’s present drug situation is being compared to the North American opioid epidemic in 2012. Prescription opioid, however, accounted for more than 50% of accidental death in 2017 in Australia. There has been a 3-fold increase in deaths due to stimulants since 2012. Of the drugs, the use of sleep and anxiety medications benzodiazepines (or “benzos”), remained the second most common group of drugs found in accidental overdoses, behind opioids.
John Ryan, CEO of not-for-profit public health organization the Penington Institute, which commissioned the report, said, that cutting down or banning medication is not the answer to the problem, as people with substance use issue turn to illegally procuring them. The problem needs to axed and dealt with at the core. Instead of criminalizing, to educate people.
“But certainly, there’s been indications from America that clamping down on prescriptions and not at the same time dealing with peoples’ underlying issues, whether that’s pain management or substance dependence, is a recipe for failure, “he said.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said opioid addiction and misuse is a national challenge that the minister is dedicated to addressing. “The Government has committed more than $780 million over four years (from 1 July 2018) to reduce the impact of drug and alcohol misuse on individuals, families and communities,” the spokesperson said.