Drug overdose deaths have more than tripled in ten years on the Coffs Coast.
Drug overdose deaths have more than tripled in ten years on the Coffs Coast.

‘OVERDOSE CRISIS’: Drug deaths skyrocket on Coffs Coast

UNINTENTIONAL drug overdose deaths have more than tripled on the Coffs Coast in what has been dubbed an 'overdose crisis' in regional Australia.

In just ten years, the rate of overdose deaths have skyrocketed by 220 per cent - one of the highest increases in the state just behind Broken Hill and the Far West region, and the Tamworth to Gunnedah region.

A total of 15 people died from overdose on the Coffs Coast between 2003-2007, jumping to 48 between 2013-2017.

And, according to the data released this week by the Penington Institute, pharmaceutical pain killers and sedatives rather than illicit drugs are implicated in many of the deaths.

CEO John Ryan said benzodiazepines and opioids particularly in combination with alcohol is a problematic issue.

"Coffs is not unlike much of regional and rural NSW. Overdose is not just a big city problem anymore," CEO John Ryan said.

"Ten years ago people were more likely to die of unintentional overdose in Sydney than in regional NSW. Today, it's completely turned around. That points to a massive failure to provide the kind of services and interventions we know save lives."

According to the statistics gathered from coronial court investigations, residents in regional NSW are now dying at rates 25 per cent higher than in Sydney.

Regional residents are also dying from pharmaceuticals at double the rate than Sydney residents.

Mr Ryan said there are many factors contributing to this.

"One is a lack of access to healthcare and treatment services for substance abuse problems, another one is the time it takes for an ambulance to arrive when someone is having an overdose," he said.

"Also, people are often very reluctant to talk about drug abuse because it's so highly stigmatised. It's a very big issue in the regions because there's a stronger sense of community where people more easily know your business.

"We've really got to face up to the challenge. Overdose is touching people from all socio-economic backgrounds rich and poor - there needs to be a strong community response, where healthcare and law enforcement work together to make sure people receive treatment."

THE STATISTICS:

- In Coffs Harbour, over deaths have more than tripled, increasing by 220 per cent.

- In Coffs Harbour, there were 15 overdose deaths from 2003-2007. There were 48 from 2013-2017.

- The rate of overdose deaths in regional NSW has increased by 42 per cent in just five years.