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Prescription drugs contribute to high rate of overdose deaths in Victoria

Date posted: 10 April 2014

Prescription drugs caused or contributed to the deaths of 310 of the 374 people to die in Victoria from drug overdoses last year - prompting calls for greater controls on medication.

Victoria's 374 drug overdose deaths exceeded the state's road toll of 242 last year.

In many cases illicit drugs and alcohol also contributed to the prescription-drug deaths, but in 143 cases the deaths were due to prescription-drug use alone. Prescription drugs contributed to 83% of drug overdoses.

Illicit drugs contributed to 164 deaths and were the sole cause of death in 52 cases. Diazepam, commonly known as Valium, was the drug that caused or contributed to the highest number of overdose deaths last year. It played a role in 164 deaths. Heroin caused or contributed to 132 deaths. Codeine caused or contributed to 71 deaths, methadone 70, oxycodone 60 and methamphetamine 50.

Drug overdose deaths rose from 349 in 2010 to 374 last year.

Victorian Drug and Alcohol Association Executive Officer, Sam Biondo, said overdose deaths were a nation-wide catastrophe, with the latest Victorian figures highlighting the major influence of 'medically prescribed, legal drugs.'

Mr Biondo said community concern focused on street-based drug users, but the problem was 'as much about unfortunate people involved in workplace injuries and transport accidents - mums and dads who are getting caught up with powerful substances and can become addicted.'

Source: Sydney Morning Herald


Last updated: 9 April 2014
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Australia's National Research Centre on AOD Workforce Development National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre National Drug Research Institute