Prescription drug-related deaths on the rise in Macarthur

Danger: Prescription drugs like these opioids are leading to more deaths.
Danger: Prescription drugs like these opioids are leading to more deaths.

Drug-related deaths are on the rise across Macarthur and prescription drugs have played a large part.

A new report has found that 14 people died from drug-related accidents, suicide or homicide in Camden from 2012 to 2016, compared to eight deaths from 2002 to 2006.

The Australian Annual Overdose Report 2018 was produced by not-for-profit organisation Penington Institute.

Institute chief executive John Ryan said the death toll was alarming. 

“The number of drug-related deaths in this area south west of Sydney is trending upwards and that is a major concern,” he said.

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

“Australians are now misusing [or] abusing prescription pain killers and opioids like fentanyl unlike any previous time in history.”

Pharmaceutical opioids account for 70 per cent of opioid related deaths in Australia and about 45 per cent of all accidental drug related deaths according to the new report.

“The drug fentanyl is enormous cause for alarm,” Mr Ryan said.

“It is a synthetic opioid, up to 100 times more powerful than pure morphine and it is a key and growing part of Australia’s overdose crisis. It is claiming more lives than ever before.”

The new report also revealed sleeping or anxiety tablets, known as ‘benzos’, have become a hidden epidemic.

Mr Ryan said they had become a silent killer and the deadliness of ‘benzos’ was being grossly underestimated.

Odyssey House NSW chief executive Julie Babineau said there was no simple answer to why people become dependent on prescription drugs.

“Basically, people become dependent on prescription drugs because, as with any other drugs, they generally feel they can’t get through day-to-day life without them,” she said.

“Many people know the dangers of illicit drugs, but don’t feel the same dangers apply to prescription drugs or are unaware of interactions between various drugs, including alcohol.

“A common mistake is thinking that drug treatment services only treat illicit drugs and alcohol problems – on the contrary, services like Odyssey House NSW offer residential and community-based treatment for people using prescription and non-prescription drugs and alcohol problems.”