Caloundra's deadly drug scourge: 42 killed by overdoses
ONE Sunshine Coast suburb has become a cluster point for fatal drug overdoses, national-wide analysis has revealed.
The Penington Institute's Australia's Annual Overdose Report 2017 has revealed the extent of drug overdoses since 2011.
The report found 42 people died from an overdose in Caloundra in 2011-2015, with a fatality rate more than 30% higher than the national average.
Penington Institute CEO John Ryan said the numbers showed overdose was a serious local issue in urgent need of a co-ordinated response.
Mr Ryan said increased deaths as a result of ice, heroin and prescription medication were an alarming wake-up call, signalling more needed to be done to tackle avoidable deaths occurring across Australia.
The report found more than twice as many Australians were dying from overdoses compared to those dying from car accidents.
Specific drugs were causing more deaths, with a significant increase in fatal overdoses of pharmaceutical opioids, street heroin, and highly potent fentanyl.
Mr Ryan said overdoses on opioids including codeine and oxycodone were also on the rise across Australia.
Since the early 2000s the number of Australians aged 30 - 59 who overdosed has more than doubled.
Mr Ryan said a shift was required in how the community responded to overdose and drug use.
"We need better community education for people who are experimenting with drug use before they become addicted," he said.
Mr Ryan said prohibitive costs to treatment, insecure housing, scant availability of support services and a punitive approach served only to push people who use drugs further into a cycle of crime and poverty.
"We need to do more to give people a chance to recover," he said.
"Reducing barriers around medical treatment will provide many people who use drugs with a way out of a cycle of criminal activity and incarceration.
"This is not only a compassionate response it is one that will actively work towards reducing crime in our community."
Mr Ryan said the stigma around drug use and overdose needed to be addressed to effectively tackle the problem.
"Stigma and shame in relation to drug use and addiction is one of the great barriers for people who are experiencing problems from seeking help," he said.