The National Drug Strategy Household Survey has revealed the Australian community’s support for a new approach to drug use and addiction.

Penington Institute’s acting CEO David Grant says the survey’s findings further highlight Australia’s existing approach to addiction, overdose and problematic drug use simply isn’t working.

“The failed war on drugs continues to cost lives and money – it provides very poor return on investment for the Australian community and there is a growing awareness of this fact,” he said.

“Throughout the entire Australian community more and more people are dying from drug use – this is an avoidable tragedy.

“In addition to this, untold amounts of taxpayer dollars are squandered on an approach that continues to fail to the detriment of our entire community.”

Mr Grant says there needs to be shift in how the community responds to addiction and drug use more broadly if we are to effectively address the hundreds of avoidable deaths occurring across the community.

Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2017 recently released by Penington Institute shows that more than twice as many Australians are now dying due to accidental overdose as compared to those dying from car accidents.  A significant increase in deaths related to pharmaceutical opioids, street heroin, and highly potent fentanyl is also highlighted in the report.

“We need to treat drug use and addiction for what it is – a serious community health issue with widespread implications for our society.

“We can’t arrest our way out of this problem – we need better community education for people who are experimenting with drug use before they become addicted and greater availability to a range of health and support services.

“We need to shift our approach to evidence-based measures with proven results – this isn’t about going soft on drugs it’s about getting smart on drugs.”

Mr Grant says reducing barriers to accessing opioid replacement therapy is one simple measure that would return huge community benefits.

“One of the great triumphs in addiction treatment is pharmacotherapy programs such as opioid substitution treatment – this sort of treatment is highly effective at stabilising people in crisis situations,” he said.

“People who access methadone or buprenorphine currently pay dispensing fees – a serious barrier to accessing treatment for many people.

“It is cheaper to be abusing pharmaceuticals than to be receiving medically assisted treatment – changing this would have enormous benefit for many people in the crisis of addiction.”

Mr Grant says a review of expenditure and the allocation of resources in relation to drugs is one option to work towards a more targeted and effective response to drug use in the Australian community.

Penington Institute convenes International Overdose Awareness Day and produces Australia’s Annual Overdose Report.

Media contact – Penington Institute: Ben Grundy 0420 392 202 and