Drugs leading cause of death among recently released prisoners

Burnet Institute

31 August, 2011

Associate Professor Paul Dietze at the Overdose Awareness Day launch at Parliament House.

The research, collated by Burnet Institute’s Head of Justice Health Research Dr Stuart Kinner and University of Queensland researcher Simon Forsyth, estimated that among adults released from prison in Australia in 2007/08, almost 140 died within a year of release from drug-related causes.

“Drug overdose remains a leading cause of death among recently released prisoners in Australia, with the greatest risk of death in the weeks immediately following release,” Dr Kinner said.

“There is an urgent need for evidence-based interventions to reduce these tragic deaths. One promising approach is to provide easier access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone, for those at greatest risk.”

Dr Kinner also called for the establishment of a national system for routine monitoring of deaths in ex-prisoners.

“We have had a national system for monitoring deaths in custody for almost two decades. Until we have a similar system for monitoring mortality in ex-prisoners, we won’t know whether our interventions are making a difference,” he said.

On the eve of Overdose Awareness Day on 31 August, Burnet Institute’s Head of Alcohol and Other Drugs Research, Associate Professor Paul Dietze said that everyday, Australians are needlessly dying of overdose.

“While we have low numbers of overdose compared to the peak of the heroin glut during the mid-to-late nineties to 2001, we must still be mindful that one Australian dies a day from opioid overdose,” Associate Professor Dietze said.

“And those overdoses of course, have major consequences for the friends and families of those whose lives are unnecessarily cut short.”

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Burnet Institute

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