Report: Does Dubbo have a drug-related death dilemma?

Australia’s Annual Overdose Report has found 33 people died of drug-related death in Dubbo and the surrounding region from 2012 to 2016.

The same report found only ten drug-related deaths occurred in Dubbo from 2002 to 2006.

The Penington Institute, a community-based non-partisan voice in public health and safety approaches to drug use has warned that Australia is on track to experience a United States-style drug overdose crisis.

Penington Institute CEO John Ryan said the Dubbo figures were alarming.

“We see a sharp increase in drug overdose deaths in this region; this should act as a strong wake-up call,” he said.

“From 2001 to 2016, the drug type claiming the most lives in Dubbo was unsurprisingly opioids such as codeine, heroin, oxycodone and fentanyl.”

Dubbo councillor Stephen Lawrence said the report highlights the need for a drug court and a residential rehabilitation centre for Dubbo.

“The illicit use of oxycodone and similar drugs leads to a range of crimes including the illicit supply and use of the drugs but also the commitment of offences to finance their purchase,” he said.

“These opioid drugs are cutting a swathe through the community, it is a crisis that has hit hard in the USA but it also an issue here in Australia and a real one in the Dubbo region.

“The contents of this report are further evidence of the pressing need for a residential rehab centre in the region working in conjunction with a drug court and the detoxification services that are necessary for both.”

The new report also reveals sleeping and anxiety tablets (known as “Benzos”) have become a hidden epidemic with the number of deaths involving “Benzos” doubling in just a decade. 

Mr Ryan said most overdoses involve a number of drugs.

“Australians are now misusing and abusing prescription painkillers and opioids like fentanyl unlike any previous time in history,” he said.

”The new report also shows the rate of accidental drug-related death in rural Australian areas like Dubbo has grown significantly compared to metropolitan Australia – this is a clear and continuing trend.

“Overdoses usually happen accidentally, most of the deaths are caused by multiple contributing drugs ... rather than a single drug.

“Spending priorities are wrong in Australia. 65 per cent of government investment is spent on law enforcement to reduce illicit drug supply. Just 22 per cent is spent on treatment, 9.5 per cent on prevention and 2.2 per cent on harm reduction.”

International Overdose Awareness Day is on August 31. Anyone who wants to offer support should go to www.overdoseday.com