REGIONAL WRECKAGE: A new report reveals regional areas like Gympie have had a huge rise in the number of unintentional overdose deaths.
REGIONAL WRECKAGE: A new report reveals regional areas like Gympie have had a huge rise in the number of unintentional overdose deaths. Lord_Ghost

Shocking increase in Gympie region's overdose deaths

DRUG abuse experts have blamed a "massive failure" of services for a staggering four-fold increase in the number overdose deaths in the Gympie-Cooloola region.

A new report from the Penington Institute reveals there were 24 unintentional overdose deaths in the region between 2013-17, quadruple the number of deaths from 2003-07.

It is the second highest increase in the state, trailing only Hervey Bay where the number of unintentional deaths soared from five to 28.

The number of deaths in Queensland has soared by more than 40 per cent since 2008, the report said.

Penington Institute CEO John Ryan said the death rate was unacceptable.


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"In the five years between 2013 and 2017, there were 24 unintentional overdose deaths in the Gympie-Cooloola region," Mr Ryan said.

"It's 24 too many."


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Mr Ryan said the surge in deaths "points to a massive failure to provide the kind of services and interventions that we know save lives".

"Despite the rate of unintentional overdose deaths going down in recent years, the long-term trend is still upward and it's important to recognise that in every single region of Queensland we're looking at here, the actual number of deaths has increased in the five years from 2013-2017 as compared to 2003-2007," he said.

"We must treat overdose deaths as preventable.

"We know what works in saving lives and reducing the harms from overdose deaths.

"We're just not doing enough of it."


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Prescription opioid drugs. Patrick Sison

Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service addiction services director Richard Spence-Thomas said the SCHHS services provided treatment to more than 14,000 people every year.

"SCHHS's Mental Health and Addiction Service offers specialist alcohol and drug treatment service to people with substance use and misuse problems," he said.

"This service works closely with other SCHHS services such as Emergency Department, Persistent Pain Service, Mental Health and Hepatology; and Department of Health-funded alcohol and drug services in the non-government sector.

"Addiction Services accept direct self-referrals, as well as referrals from GPs and other medical specialists, other health professionals and other agencies, as well.

"SCHHS supports the PHN (Primay Health Network) in its ongoing efforts to improve prescription stewardship within the primary health setting for all medications of concern, in particular opiates."

The report found unintentional deaths involving stimulants increased nine-fold across Queensland over the past decade, and almost tripled Australia-wide over the past five years.

Unintentional deaths where pharmaceutical opioids fentanyl and tramadol were detected have soared by almost six times in Queensland in the past 10 years.

Regional Qld death rate

Overdose deaths per 100,000 people

2006: 3.8

2007: 4.4

2008: 4.7

2009: 6

2010: 6.4

2011: 6.4

2012: 7.2

2013: 6.4

2014: 6.5

2015: 7.6

2016: 7.5

2017: 5.5