Report reveals alarming growth of overdoses in region
GYMPIE’S alarming overdose problem has been put in the spotlight by a new report which reveals the region has one of the worst unintentional drug-induced death rates in Queensland.
Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2020, compiled by the public health researcher and not-for-profit Penington Institute, shows the region has an unintentional overdose death rate of more than 10 out of every 100,000 people, one of the five worst rates in the state.
The exact rate is unknown, but the number of total overdose deaths in the Gympie-Cooloola area has doubled over three successive five-year periods, from seven in 2004-08, to 15 in 2009-13 and then 30 in 2014-2018.
It is the 14th highest count among the 83 statistical regions listed in the report.
The problem is not solely within Gympie’s borders, either.
The report shows the Central Queensland and Sunshine Coast Primary health network, which covers Gympie and its surrounds, recorded an overdose rate of 8.0 people per 100,000 in the 2014-18 period.
This was double the PHN’s rate of 4.0 in 2004-2008, and higher than the rates in Australia’s capital cities (5.8 per 100,000) and regional areas (7.3 per 100,000).
It is the worst rate among all of Queensland’s PHNs.
Preliminary data for 2018 shows 72 overdose deaths occurred in the Central Queensland and Sunshine Coast PHN, the highest total in two decades.
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Penintgon CEO John Ryan says the “grim” figures featured in the report – which included overdose deaths within a single year for the fifth year running – are a “a brutal indictment of our governments’ narrow focus on controlling the supply of substances while failing to care enough for those who are already consuming and at risk of multiple harms including fatal overdose”.
And there is no easy fix.
“People turn to drugs for many reasons,” Mr Ryan says.
“Some are motivated by curiosity, pleasure or the promise of new experiences.
“For many others, drug use is a response to mental or physical traumas, such as workplace, sport or road accidents.
“Mental health drivers are important, like anxiety and depression.
“Some people turn to drugs to distract them from despair or isolation, while some are people with little hope for their futures, including the financially insecure and those who have lost their jobs.
“A comprehensive national overdose strategy would be a good start if it had clear indicators to end overdose, as would expanding the Take Home Naloxone Pilot from three states to every jurisdiction in Australia.
“There is much more to be done – but at a minimum, we need an overdose educated and empowered community.”