According to Australia's Annual Overdose Report 2019, produced by the Penington Institute, from 2001 to 2017 unintentional drug-induced deaths increased by 3.4 per cent per year, compared with Australia's road toll which has decreased on average by 2.2 per cent per year.
In 2017, there were 2,162 drug-induced deaths in Australia, a 75.6 per cent increase from 2001 - 1,612 of those deaths were unintentional with opioids being the drug group most commonly involved.
71 per cent of unintentional drug-induced deaths in 2017 were people aged between 30 and 59, twice as many were men and Aboriginal Australians were three times more likely to die from unintentional overdose.
Despite these alarming figures, Penington Institute CEO John Ryan is positive about what can be done in Australia to make overdose less frequent and fatal: "Community-wide and targeted education to potential overdose witnesses, expanded access to drug treatment including opioid agonist therapy, improved access to the opioid reversal drug naloxone, pain management and allied health will all help."
Life-saving overdose-reversing drug
Naloxone is a short-acting opioid antagonist that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Take Home Naloxone programs delivered to people at risk of witnessing or experiencing an opioid overdose, have been established in Australia and internationally to reduce overdose-related deaths.
In NSW the Take Home Naloxone Intervention (ORTHN) is currently available as part of a research trial in St Vincent's Health Network, five Local Health Districts (South Eastern Sydney, Sydney, Western Sydney, Hunter New England and Murrumbidgee) and the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre.
NSW Health is currently preparing for the launch of the intervention to other Local Health Districts and health services. ORTHN will see free distribution of naloxone and training on administering the drug available to community members throughout the state in latter quarter of 2019.
Naloxone is currently also available on prescription by a doctor or by consulting with a community pharmacist.
What is Overdose Awareness Day?
On 31 of August the world turns its attention to International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD). The goals of IOAD are to provide people with a safe environment to mourn those they've lost without shame or guilt, educate communities on the risk of overdose and the support available for people with a drug dependence and to encourage discussion on overdose prevention, supported by evidence-based policy and practice.
Our message is simple - the tragedy of overdose death is preventable and more must be done to save lives. – International Overdose Awareness Day
Overdose Awareness Day activities in NSW
Activities to commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day are happening all across the world on 31 August. In NSW the following activities are taking place on or around the date:
Darlinghurst – From 26 August, Remembrance Tree at
Kirketon Road Centre – community artwork memorialising people lost to overdose
Blacktown, Mt Druitt and Parramatta – Friday 30 August, Memorial Tree at
Blacktown Community Health Centre,
Mt Druitt Community Health Centre and
Parramatta Community Health Centre
Surry Hills – Friday 30 August, Overdose Memorial and Narcan Blitz at
The Langton Centre
Lithgow – Friday 30 August, 10am – 1pm, Community Information and Tributes at
Lithgow Library, presented by Lithgow Information & Neighbourhood Centre and Lithgow Uniting Church Parish
Blackett – Friday 30 August, 11am – 2pm,
Overdose Awareness Day BBQ at Marrin Weejali Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Healing Centre
Marrickville – Sunday 1 September, 1pm – 4pm,
Panel & BBQ 'Remembrance - Prevention – De-Stigmatization' presented by Students for Sensible Drug Policy NSW
Check the International Overdose Awareness Day website at
overdoseday.com/australia/nsw for any additional events in NSW.
For further information and to request Australia's annual overdose report 2019, visit
Are drugs a problem for someone you care about? Contact Family Drug Support (FDS) for 24 hours, 7 days a week phone support on
1300 368 186 or visit
For free and confidential advice 24/7 call Family Drug Support on
1300 368 186 or Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015. Counsellors are available to provide information, referrals, crisis counselling and support. Or start a
Web Chat with an ADIS counsellor online Monday to Friday, 8.30am – 5pm. ADIS can also provide up-to-date information about service availability in your area during the COVID-19 pandemic.