Data released today by the ABS has highlighted the terrible extent of Australia’s ongoing overdose crisis.

Penington Institute’s acting CEO David Grant says the increasing number of drug related deaths in Australia highlights the need to rethink how the community responds to addiction and problematic drug use.

“We now have a situation where the number of drug related deaths is higher than during the 1990s heroin crisis,” Mr Grant said.

“The difference is that now the hundreds of avoidable deaths are attributed to a much wider range of pharmaceutical and illicit drugs.

“It’s time to listen to what the evidence is telling us – Australia’s approach to drugs isn’t working.”

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.

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

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

“We need better community education for people who are experimenting with drug use before they become addicted.”

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