South-west bucks heroin use trend

THE heroin scourge gripping Melbourne has not hit the south-west, but drug abuse is still rife.

Western Region Alcohol & Drug Centre (WRAD) director Geoff Soma said alcohol, cannabis and methampethamine like substances were the top concerns in the district.

“We haven’t seen that here (an increase in heroin use),” Mr Soma said. “But we’re concerned overall with all substances.

“I’d be surprised if there weren’t deaths related to alcohol and drugs (every year in the south-west).”

Mr Soma said he would be concerned if heroin use in the community increased.

“I believe there were 190 people who died from heroin overdoses in the last year - that was the highest since 1990,” he said.

Mr Soma said concerns around heroin use included the unsafe use of needles and the possibility of drug-borne viruses increasing.

“Similarly with methamphetamine-like substances, you don’t have a lot of control over the strength, the quality and what they’ve been mixed with,” he said.

Mr Soma said he would support a safe injecting room in the district if the drug took hold and there was a need for one.

“I support safe injecting rooms in Victoria,” he said.

The spike in heroin use is believed to be due to an increase in availability of the drug.

It is also reportedly available for less than $20 a hit.

Mr Soma said another alarming trend was the average age of people dying from heroin overdoses was 42.

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016 revealed the number of people who had used an illicit drug was increasing.

About 3.1 million Australians had taken an illicit drug in the past 12 months, it revealed. Cocaine is the second most commonly used illegal drug – after cannabis – it revealed.

Cannabis and methamphetamine users were more likely to use the drug on a regular basis, than people who took cocaine or ecstacy.

The survey also revealed one in 20 people had misused a pharmaceutical in the past 12 months.

Mr Soma renewed his call for a rehabilitation facility for the south-west.

“We think it makes good sense to have a residential option for people if some of the other treatment we offer doesn’t work,” he said. The centre would cost more than $2 to build and a further $1.5 million to operate annually.

Mr Soma said people with drug and alcohol additions need up to six months intensive treatment.

He said a residential rehabilitation centre would  provide people battling substance addiction with a facility to receive such treatment and ongoing care.