Middle-aged Australians caught in “unprecedented overdose crisis”: report

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MELBOURNE, Aug. 29 (PNA/Xinhua) — The number of middle-aged Australians dying from drug overdoses has tripled in the past decade, a new study has found.

A report by Victoria’s Penington Institute found that eight out of every 10 overdose deaths in Australia in 2014 involved men and women aged between 30 and 59.

The report revealed that the number of Australians dying from overdoses in their 50s and 60s had tripled since 2004 and that prescription medication was responsible for 71 percent of drug-related deaths in Australia.

In 2014, 1,136 Australians died of accidental overdoses, up from 705 in 2004, and that number is expected to exceed the national road toll for the first time in 2017.

Of the 1,136 deaths, 342 involved men and women in their 40s, 304 involving those aged between 30-39 and 238 for 50-59 year olds.

Penington Institute CEO John Ryan said it was time for the Australian governments to acknowledge the epidemic and make significant fund available to combat it.

“The data suggests older Australians are facing an unprecedented overdose crisis,” Ryan told news Limited on Monday.

“If the current trend continues, in five years the age of people most likely to die of overdose will be those aged 50 to 59.”

“These grim figures underscore just how severe the overdose epidemic is right now in Australia.”

“When you consider the kinds of investment that has been put into reducing the road toll the question is whether a similar investment will be made to better educate the community about the risk of overdose.”

“We are calling for that investment.”

Sally Finn, a Salvation Army social worker and founder of the International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31, said she has seen a notable increase in middle-aged drug takers contacting the Salvation Army for help.

“All these families are suffering in silence,” Finn said.

“A lot of people begin taking these medications because they have been prescribed them for legitimate pain reasons and they fall into behaviors which mean they struggle not to use them.”

“These are accidental deaths no-one is intending to die.”

Since 2004, the report found there has been a 43 percent jump in overdose deaths among 30- to 39-year-olds, a 96 percent increase amongst 40- to 49-year-olds and a 235 percent increase in the 50- to 59-year-old age bracket.

Jason Grant, a reformed addict who almost overdosed on Valium and Tamezepam prescribed to him by a doctor on several occasions, said he knew he needed to make a change.

“It was purely accidental but I thought, I need to stop because I might not wake up next time,” Grant, a 45-year-old father of two, told News Limited.

“The drugs helped me get out of reality of life. Everything just faded away into nothing.”

“The more (drugs) I took, the less I felt. I became very isolated.”

Grant said if it weren’t for a rehab group he joined after a series of near overdoses he would have died.

“Nothing else seemed to work; the hospitals, the rehab, but being around these other guys and knowing they’d been through the same thing and come out the other end gave me hope,” he said.

“I get to see my kids again, I have a job and a car. Life is so much better now.”

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