Ambulance call-outs soar over drugs and alcohol incidents

VICTORIAN paramedics are being called to an average of almost 60 alcohol-related and 25 drug-affected patients a day.

A surge in ice-related call-outs is a main cause of an increase in attendances of almost 30 per cent on the year before.

Prescription medication — mostly sleeping tablets and anti-anxiety medication benzodiazepines — continue to be involved in more ambulance call-outs than illicit drugs.

But a Turning Point report shows that the proportion of illicit drug misuse has dramatically increased.

Attendances for crystal methamphetamine or “ice” almost doubled in 2014-2015. The 2271 attendances a year, or six a day, is an eightfold increase since 2010-2011.

The Ambo Project, a summary of Victoria’s drug and alcohol related ambulance attendances, shows that alcohol-related harm is the most common problem: there were 21,602 call-outs compared with 9038 for illicit drugs and 9941 for prescription medications.

The number of alcohol-related cases increased almost threefold in the past six years; paramedics now attend 57 cases daily; in 49, it is the only drug involved.

Turning Point lead researcher Belinda Lloyd said ambulance call-outs for prescription medications, including antidepressants, anti-psychotics and painkillers, were higher in regional areas per rate of population.

“This is no longer a problem for major cities and entertainment precincts,” Ms Lloyd.

“We need more awareness about how to minimise the harm from drugs.”

Ambulance Victoria general manager of emergency operations Mick Stephenson, said the increase in drug call-outs, particularly amphetamines, meant paramedics more frequently sedated patients to prevent self-harm and protect health workers.

“They take this stuff at their peril because they don’t know what’s in it and nor do we.”

Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley said training of almost 40,000 frontline health workers in dealing with ice-affected patients started today.

Opposition health spokeswoman Mary Wooldridge said alcohol and drug-fuelled harm continued to put paramedics and others at risk.

Source:  7th Nov 2016

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