Welcome to our web site which is dedicated to dependency treatments, research and education. On this site you will find summaries of research articles, lectures and conferences from Dr Andrew Byrne and his colleagues. 75 Redfern St, Redfern, Australia. Phone 9319 5524
12 September 2015
BMJ article: increasing overdoses but they ignore known solutions (+ Hari TED talk).
is no more ‘final’ statistic regarding drug use than overdose deaths. And
in England the official figures go back to Victorian times, then often
involving opium, laudanum and other strong drugs including alcohol. The
British Coroner’s Act of 1844 was ahead of its time and even pre-dated the
famous Broad Street Pump reports of the London cholera epidemic of 1854.
The latter is sometimes quoted as the first exercise in modern, scientific
BMJ has reported increasing overdose deaths in the UK which are little short of
disastrous, reflecting experience in America - doubling in a few short years
and overtaking other causes of death like a tragic game of leap-frog. The
UK now has about 50 overdose deaths per million of population or 3346 in 2014
of which 952 were from heroin or morphine. In Portugal it is about a
tenth of this rate according to EMCDDA.
familiar story of increasing overdoses happened in Portugal before 2001 when a
forward thinking and science based experiment was undertaken moving away from
decriminalised personal drug use 14 years ago, heralding a new era in public
health in that small country. Since the liberalisation experiment the
country has gone from a pariah to a paragon of public health outcomes.
HIV, overdose and addiction rates have dropped significantly while resources
have been strongly diverted to treatment and social services. The UK and
USA have comparable drug control laws strongly relying on punishment, in stark
contrast to Portugal.
seeing refugees on a television screen, overdose deaths only come home to us
when they are personalised by a friend, family member or particularly moving
portrayal such as the recent footage of a dead young boy on a beach in
Turkey. Why is nobody taking notice of one of the biggest and longest and
most successful real-life experiments in drug law reform? Why are those
supporting prohibition so successful in beating a drum which has no scientific
or empirical basis? And their actions are leading to preventable deaths
every single day. I recommend a 14 minute talk by Johann Hari about his
‘journey’ investigating addiction*.