Heroin Death Lessons

Death from Heroin use can provide an opportunity for authorities to learn valuable lessons to prevent future drug related deaths.

Australia is currently experiencing a heroin drought with a concurrent reduction in heroin related deaths, however the United Nations is warning that heroin production in Afghanistan is now at record levels.

Information from one Australian state can be useful in understanding heroin use and deaths that occur throughout Australia. So the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine has provided a useful report on deaths from 1991 to 2005, highlights of which are-

  • Heroin deaths peaked in 1999 then fell and have since risen again.
  • Deaths of males are substantially above those of females.
  • The average age of heroin users that died has increased from 28 to 33 years.
  • Almost half of the heroin users that died were unemployed.
  • Two out of three heroin users that died had Hepatitis C.
  • Other illicit drugs were present in the majority of heroin deaths.
  • Other illicit drugs cause more deaths than heroin.

(Source: Heroin Deaths in Victoria 2005 available at www.vifm.org (link no longer works))

DRUG ADVISORY COUNCIL COMMENTS-

All illicit drug deaths in Australia indicate the need for more detoxification and rehabilitation programs that get users free of drugs.

If we add the deaths caused by Methadone to those of illicit drugs, clearly the current drug policy of harm minimization is NOT working.

Australia needs to substantially reduce the number of illicit drug users in order to substantially reduce the number of drug deaths.

Court ordered detoxification and rehabilitation has been proven to reduce the number of drug users and deaths and MUST be implemented urgently.