All drugs can cause an overdose, including those prescribed by a doctor.
All drugs can cause an overdose, including those prescribed by a doctor.

98 lives lost to accidental overdoses in five years

CASES of unintentional overdoses in Northern NSW are on the rise, with 98 lives lost in the Tweed-Richmond area in only five years.

In the five years between 2014 and 2018, 35 Tweed Valley residents died of unintentional overdoses, while 63 people died on the Northern Rivers in that period.

An overdose is having more of a drug (or combination of drugs) than someone's body can cope with.

All drugs can cause an overdose, including medication prescribed by a doctor.

The report identified 32 deaths in the Richmond Valley Coastal area, a geographical subdivision by the ABS with more than 79,000 inhabitants that includes the Byron and Ballina shires, but also Woodburn and Evan Heads.

The document also identified a further 31 deaths in that period in the Richmond Valley Hinterland area, a geographical subdivision by the ABS with almost 84,000 inhabitants that includes the Lismore and Kyogle LGAs plus Casino.

Bigger areas in NSW, like Newcastle and Sydney Metro, had 85 and 176 deaths respectively for the same reason in that period.

The data, provided by the Penington Institute, shows the number of deaths for unintentional overdose is increasing.

The Northern Rivers recorded 43 deaths between 2009 and 2013, while the Tweed had 34 in the same period.

John Ryan, CEO of Penington Institute, said the rate of unintentional overdose deaths has been higher in regional NSW than Greater Sydney every year since 2010.

"The data is clear: the overdose situation in the Tweed Valley and Northern Rivers regions is not improving. People are suffering and dying unnecessarily and all levels of government and society are not doing enough to keep them safe," he said.

"This is Australia's hidden health crisis. By releasing this report with the most up-to-date data, we're looking to start a conversation, bring overdose out of the shadows and ultimately reduce harms."

The Penington Institute released this year's Annual Overdose Report on International Overdose Awareness Day, the world's largest annual campaign to end overdose, remember those who have died without stigma and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind.


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