Alcohol and drug-related ambo call-outs soar

AMBULANCE Victoria has slammed soaring Ballarat call-outs for alcohol and drug-affected patients.

Data released Thursday showed Ballarat rated as the third worst regional area for alcohol-related ambulance attendances, while cannabis, ice, heroin, anti-depressant, inhalant and analgesic misuse all rose in 2012-13. 

Ambulance Victoria acting Grampians regional manager Gary Castledine said paramedics were called to an average of 10 daily alcohol abuse cases in regional Victoria.

“Alcohol and drug use is a significant issue in society and has obvious impacts on the workload of our paramedics,” Mr Castledine said.

A Turning Point report, which tracks non-fatal drug and alcohol related ambulance call-outs by local government area, showed Moorabool Shire had Victoria’s highest rate of ecstasy cases and the second highest of ice.

“While the figures show that the incidence of ambulance attendance for amphetamines continues to rise, we highlight that alcohol remains the biggest single cause of substance abuse call-outs for ambulance,” Mr Castledine said.

However, Mr Castledine said drug affected patients could become aggressive and any mental health conditions worsened.

“Amphetamine use also increases the risk of potential health complications including heart problems and stroke.

“Dealing with patients affected by amphetamines can be very challenging and time consuming for paramedics, police and emergency departments who are trying to help.

Ambulance call-outs for alcohol and drug-related cases rose in Ballarat in 2012/13.

Ambulance call-outs for alcohol and drug-related cases rose in Ballarat in 2012/13.

“Sadly, paramedics see the impact of amphetamines not only on patients but also their families. It is important that people know that our paramedics are there to help.”

Drug policy organisation Penington Institute chief executive officer John Ryan said the data suggested the overall alcohol and drug toll was rising.

“There are no good numbers in this data,” Mr Ryan said.

“Overdose rates are rising with alcohol, crystal meth and pharmaceutical opioids. It is truly shocking.

“The ratio of alcohol call-outs to population is rising fast.”

Ballarat recorded an ambulance attendance rate of 249.6 per 100,000 population for alcohol related cases, an increase of 62.6 or 33 per cent on the 2011-12 rate of 187.

It ranked third behind Geelong and Latrobe, with cases including alcohol poisoning, intoxication and injuries caused by being drunk.

Heroin related cases, including overdoses, increased from a rate of 9.5 to 15.5, cannabis went up from 23.1 to 37.1, ice rose from 8.4 to 15.5 and amphetamines went from 14.7 to 20.6.

Cases involving opioid analgesics, such as morphine, rose from 15.8 to 17.5, over the counter analgesics, including paracetamol and ibuprofen, increased from 23.1 to 48.5, antidepressants went from 20 to 30.9 and inhalants rose from none recorded to 6.2.

Decreasing were cases of antipsychotic, anticonvulsant and benzoidiapene medication misuse.

Ecstasy and cocaine overdoses in Ballarat were also too few to monitor.

fiona.henderson@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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