International Overdose Awareness Day: We must do more to save lives

Accidental drug-related deaths have more than doubled in Western Australia over the last 15 years, Greens spokesperson for Alcohol and Other Drugs Hon Alison Xamon MLC has told Parliament to mark International Overdose Awareness Day, which is today, with prescription drugs now the biggest killer.

Ms Xamon said the latest report from the Pennington Institute showed drugs were the cause of 23% of all accidental deaths in Australia in 2016 – more than double the number of deaths caused by car accidents.

She said, contrary to popular convention, it was not meth or heroin that was the most common killer, but prescription opioids.

“Twenty years ago, the most common drug causing accidental death was heroin,” Ms Xamon said, “today, it’s prescription opioids.”

“Counter to popular convention that young people are at the greatest risk of overdose, the data shows that people in the 30-59 year old age bracket are the most likely to succumb to an overdose.

“In 2016, almost 70 per cent of those dying from a drug overdose were in this age group,” Ms Xamon said, “which might surprise many as drugs and overdoses are often associated with younger people.”

Ms Xamon said the rise in drug related deaths in Western Australia was the highest in the country, with incidences of overdose rising rapidly in regional areas.

She said drug-related deaths were also three times more likely to affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders.

“The report clearly shows that whatever we are doing in this space, it is not stemming the tide of harm related to drug use,” Ms Xamon said.