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Australia’s GPs say overdose death is a preventable tragedy we can all help avoid

Australia’s GPs are helping to raise awareness that overdose death is a preventable tragedy.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) says over 2,000 Australians and New Zealanders die each year in drug related deaths.

RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel says “today is International Overdose Awareness Day and we’d like to acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends who have lost a loved one to a drug overdose.

“International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on August 31st each year.

“It aims to reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths and remember those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of a drug overdose.

“The real tragedy of these deaths is that so many of them are entirely preventable.

“An overdose means having too much of a drug – or a combination of drugs – for your body to be able to cope with.

“There are a number of signs and symptoms that show someone has overdosed and these differ with the type of drug used.”

Alcohol and other drugs affect many Australian workplaces, more than most people would expect. But its alcohol and other drug use in the mining sector that has a lot of attention.

The signs of an overdose of heroin, morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl or methadone can include:

  • shallow breathing or no breathing at all
  • snoring or gurgling (this can mean a person’s airway is partly blocked)
  • blue lips or fingertips
  • floppy arms and legs
  • no response to stimulus
  • disorientation
  • unrousable (can’t be woken up).

“Taking benzodiazepines, like diazepam and alprazolam, alcohol, sedating antidepressants or anti psychotics along with opioids can also significantly increases your risk of dying from an overdose.
“If you can’t get a response from someone, don’t assume they are asleep.

“This is a medical emergency and you need to call an ambulance immediately. Don’t assume they can safely sleep it off.

“Recent data on accidental overdoses shows that more Australians are now dying from pharmaceutical prescription opioids than from heroin overdoses.

“This is why GPs are supporting the Victorian and Australian governments’ moves towards real-time monitoring of controlled drugs including prescription opioids.

“We are also urging the pharmacy industry to back moves to end over the counter sales of codeine based medications – moves designed to save up to 150 lives a year.

“From February 2018 new national regulations will ensure people will need to see a doctor to be prescribed codeine based analgesics including some cough mixtures with codeine additives.

“With more than one million Australians taking codeine based medications every year, codeine addiction has become a serious problem for our community.”

For more information about International Overdose Awareness Day and the events supporting it in your state please visit:

For more information about how to help someone experiencing an opioid overdose visit



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