The number of unintentional overdose deaths in Ballarat have risen by over 20 percent according to new data released by the Penington Institute.
The data compared unintentional overdose deaths in local government areas over three sets of five year periods.
From 20014 to 2018, Ballarat had 29 unintentional overdose deaths, a 21 per cent rise from its figures in between 2009-2013 (24 deaths).
CEO of Penington Institute John Ryan flagged Ballarat in a media release, stating that the issue was not improving.
In the five years between 2014 and 2018, there were 29 unintentional overdose deaths in Ballarat. That's an unacceptably high number.John Ryan
"The data is clear: the overdose situation in Ballarat is not improving. People are suffering and dying unnecessarily and all levels of government and society are not doing enough to keep them safe."
However, for the complete set of data regarding unintentional deaths within other regions since 2004, Ballarat is the only region to have seen it's figures from 2014-2018 lower than they were between 2004-2008.
Head of Alcohol and other Drug Research at the Burnet Institute, Paul Dietze said it is difficult to analyse any trends from this data however as what sort of drugs caused the overdose remains unknown.
"The way the numbers are described makes it very hard to determine which drugs were involved," he said. "As a consequence, we don't really know what the driver is there. It's most likely that they are unintentional opioid overdoses. In terms of looking at the patterns, it's really hard to determine anything definitive because we don't know which drugs are involved.
"Most places have continued to show an increase over time, however I'm not really sure why Ballarat decreased a little bit. One thing we have to remember is that these are very small numbers per annum, it's really hard to know too much... 31 compared to 29 is basically identical over a five year period."
Mr Dietze continued, adding how important it is the public realises these deaths are caused by prescription drugs the vast majority of the time.
"The thing a lot of people don't realise is that most of these overdoses do involve legal substances... people often don't realise that they are at risk of an overdose."
He stressed the need for more to be done to increase community education about the dangers of unintentional overdoses.
"The reality is that thousands of people die every year as a consequence, it's a significant public health problem that we need to sort out," he said. "We've known this for a long time but we haven't implemented the strategies necessary to make a difference. We have made some strides... however we need to be doing more community education around that."
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