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Pharmaceutical opioid harm surges in Victoria

Victorians are inundating hospital emergency departments suffering from pharmaceutical opioid-related harm at a cost of $16 million over two years.

Opioid-related emergency presentations increased annually by an average of 3.1 per cent during the 10-year period of 2008-09 to 2017-18, according to the Monash University Accident Research Centre.

The centre’s Hazard report released on Thursday says in 2015/16 to 2016/17, the years where costs were available, hospital treatment both direct and indirect for hospital admissions totalled $16.35 million.

In the three years from 2015/16 to 2017/18, there were 2618 emergency records coded as opioid poisoning, most commonly codeine and oxycodone, followed by tramadol, data shows.

The numbers for pharmaceutical opioid-related harm hospital admissions were even higher.

A total of 3946 hospital admissions were recorded in 2015/16 to 2017/18 – and average of 1315 a year and the majority were coded for drugs such as codeine and morphine.

Two thirds of the admissions were people living in metropolitan Melbourne and the increasing trend was most pronounced among males aged 45 to 54 years, according to the data.

More than half of all the non-fatal poisonings captured were the result of intentional self harm. 

The report makes eight recommendations, including interventions to prevent self-harm, expanding data collection and increasing naloxone availability, a drug which reverses opioid overdose.

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