Harm Reduction Victoria


Heroin OD graph

2 people die every day in Australia currently as a result of drug related overdose.

Anyone who remembers the drug scene in Melbourne in 1999 -2001 will probably comment on the low number of fatal overdose currently. You still hear those stories that start along the lines of …”well, back when I was using heroin people used to drop like flies . . . . . ” or something similar.

If you look at the graph you will see that in 1999 Victoria recorded 359 overdose deaths and 2000 was similar with 331 deaths. In fact the Herald Sun newspaper used to run a daily summary comparing the number of road fatalities with the number of overdose fatalities. They came close, at times, but road deaths have always remained higher than overdose deaths.

The emergence of street based drug markets in Melbourne from the mid 1990’s until 2001 coincided with the dramatic rise in overdose deaths. Fatal overdoses peaked at 359 in 1999  and then the number of deaths fell just as dramatically to 50 in 2001.

I’d love to claim credit for the dramatic decline in fatal overdoses and say that the death rate fell because users had become so much better at recognising and responding to overdose, due to Harm Reduction Victoria’s OD prevention workshops. It was, however, primarily due to the sudden decrease in heroin availability. Most people will remember this period as ‘’the heroin drought” when overnight it became nearly impossible to score heroin anywhere in Australia.

I tend to look at the years leading up to 2001 as a heroin glut.