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More than 2,000 Australians lost their lives due to overdose for the fifth straight year, according to the Penington Institute’s Annual Overdose Report 2020.

The report reveals there was 1,556 unintentional overdose deaths in Australia in 2018, accounting for more than three-quarters (75%) of all overdose deaths.

Opioids again emerged as the drug group most identified in unintentional overdose deaths in 2018 (involved in 900 deaths), followed by benzodiazepines (involved in 648 deaths) and stimulants (involved in 442 deaths).

Unintentional overdose deaths were most common among the 40-49 age group, accounting for 26.9% of all unintentional overdose deaths in 2018.

Less than 10% of deaths recorded involved someone aged under 30.

Men were three times more likely than women to suffer an unintentional overdose death in 2018, while Aboriginal Australians were almost three times more likely to die from an unintentional overdose death than a non-Aboriginal person.

From 2011 to 2018, the rate of unintentional overdose deaths in rural and regional Australia increased by 15.9%, while the rate in capital cities increased by 3.6%.

Penington Institute CEO John Ryan labelled overdose deaths, which cost the economy $13 billion each year, Australia’s “hidden health crisis”.

The institute has called on the Australian government to bring down the overdose toll by committing to a national overdose prevention strategy, expanding the current pilot of Take Home Naloxone, a proven intervention, and addressing potential issues with the planned rollout of national real-time prescription monitoring on people accessing proper treatment.