WODONGA has one of the highest ambulance call-out rates in regional Victoria for heroin-related cases.
The finding is contained in a report to be released today that shows a breakdown of drug and alcohol-related cases.
Wodonga paramedics had five heroin-related jobs in 2012-13 or a rate of 13.7 cases per 100,000 population.
The analysis of Ambulance Victoria data was carried by drug and alcohol treatment agency Turning Point.
The Wodonga heroin data was categorised as “heroin other”.
EDITORIAL: Alcohol an issue for our ambos
That relates to cases where heroin use is established at the scene by the paramedic, or from details provided by the patient or their associates.
These cases do not require paramedics to administer the drug naloxone to treat an overdose, though the patient might still have also ingested a cocktail of other drugs and alcohol.
Last year’s inaugural report revealed the abuse of prescription drugs such as Valium and Xanax was more likely to spark drug-related call-outs in Wodonga.
Wodonga had 88 alcohol-related call-outs for 2012-13, up from 65 the previous year.
Drug-related calls totalled 91 compared with 103 in 2011-12.
Chief executive of drug policy organisation, the Penington Institute, John Ryan said the startling overdose call-out data suggested the overall alcohol and drug toll was rising in the North East.
“There are no good numbers in this data,” Mr Ryan said.
“Overdose rates are rising with alcohol, crystal meth and pharmaceutical opioids.”
Wodonga was not listed among the regional local government areas with the most call-outs related to crystal methamphetamine, or ice.
But 10th on this list of 13 areas was Moira Shire, with five cases or a rate of 17.4 per 100,000 population.
Mr Ryan said by far the drug causing the most overdoses was alcohol.
“The ratio of alcohol call-outs to population is rising fast,” he said.
“While the road toll drops, the alcohol and drug toll is soaring.
“There needs to be a comprehensive prevention and education strategy to inform people of overdose risk.”
Wangaratta had 80 alcohol related call-outs in 2012-13, up from 46 the previous year.
Wodonga’s 88 call-outs were also a decent jump, from 65 in 2011-12.
Paramedics had 13 call-outs in the city for antidepressant-related incidents and 11 related to anti-psychotic drugs.
Mr Ryan said a spike in crystal methamphetamine call-outs began around August of 2012 and followed a jump in methamphetamine purity in late 2011.
“In regional Victoria, crystal meth call-outs have shot up from 78 in 2011-12 to more than 230 in 2012-13,” he said.
“This sharp rise confirms the rising toll that crystal meth is taking on the community.”
“It has risen as purity rose from around 30 per cent in mid-2010 to more than 75 per cent during 2012-13.”
Mr Ryan said a community awareness program highlighting crystal meth risk, which was flagged in this week’s state budget, would need to be factual “rather than old-fashioned scaremongering”.