Opioid dependency and overdose in our community

31ST August marks overdose awareness day.
We don't think a day is enough – during the month of August, Gateway Health is committed to raising awareness of the problem of opioid dependency and overdose in our community.


Every day, three Australians die from overdose. In Victoria, annual rates of death from drugs have almost doubled in the past decade. Increasingly these deaths are occurring in regional areas, among the middle aged.
Many people think that opioid dependency and overdose are related to the use of illegal drugs, but this is a misconception. The leading cause of overdose death is actually legal pharmaceutical medications including sedatives and painkillers, such as diazepam, oxycodone or fentanyl.
Opioids are a strong pain relief substance and are highly addictive, largely because they activate powerful reward centres in your brain. They slow down messages between the brain and the body which in turn, slow down your breathing and heart rate. Overdose occurs when you stop breathing entirely.
The risk of opioid overdose increases when mixed with other sedating substances such as alcohol and Valium. One particularly dangerous combination is prescription painkillers, sleeping tablets and alcohol. Taking a variety of substances within hours or even days of each other can severely increase the chances of a person unintentionally ending their life.
However, opioid deaths are preventable.
Naloxone (widely known as Narcan) is a medication that reverses the effects of the opioid substance and in turn restores breathing and heart rates. At Gateway Health, Naloxone is available to anyone who is likely to experience an opioid overdose and/or likely to witness an opioid overdose (family, friends and loved ones of people who use opioids). This intervention is provided with education for use, how to reduce risk of overdose and education for responding to an opioid overdose.
Call or visit Gateway Health to get access to free Naloxone and support. Alternatively, you can get in touch with our Alcohol and Other Drugs team directly at .