Vol. 19, ed. 2

August 2022

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August is one of the most important months at Penington Institute as we embark on the homestretch to this year’s International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD).

I’m truly heartened by the hard work of individuals and communities all around the world, united by our common cause: to end the overdose crisis. It is worth re ecting on years gone by and acknowledging how far we’ve come. However, we have a long way to go.

As illustrated in the recently released UNODC World Drug Report, fatal overdose is on the rise, with estimates of over 107,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2021, up from approximately 92,000 in 2020. Here in Australia, the loss of life from overdose continually outnumbers the road toll. We must stay strong and hold our course – this issue is too important and requires every one of us to work together to make real change. Read on in this issue to get inspired by others and see what you can do this IOAD.

One well-established lifesaver is opioid pharmacotherapy, which helps reduce overdose, mortality, and the transmission of blood-borne viruses. But what about other harms associated with injecting drugs? Recent research using Australian patient data demonstrates that retention in a pharmacotherapy program for over four weeks is positively, though modestly, associated with lower hospitalisation rates for injection-related conditions such as sepsis and endocarditis.

The same data also show that ongoing engagement with a pharmacotherapy program substantially reduces the
risk of suicide and self-harm – dangers that are extremely heightened for people who inject drugs. However, the risk of hospitalisation for self-harm increases in the initial weeks of pharmacotherapy, and suicide risk spikes sharply and immediately upon cessation of treatment – a sobering reminder of the need to prioritise support for people transitioning in and out of pharmacotherapy.

Finally, a reminder to send us your feedback. We believe that Australia’s only publication for frontline NSP workers must be shaped by frontline NSP workers. Get in touch and please share The Bulletin far and wide with your colleagues and friends.

John Ryan,
CEO, Penington Institute

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