Heroin death spike hits the ACT
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Heroin death spike hits the ACT

Three Canberrans died from suspected heroin overdoses this week, with police calling for public assistance to crack down on the drug trade.

ACT Policing said there had been at least 13 deaths as a result of suspected heroin overdoses in the capital this year.

The figure is higher than the territory's road toll for the year, which currently sits at eight.

Detective Acting Station Sergeant Mark Roswell said the three deaths this week had been scattered across the territory, in Cook, Conder and the city.

He said police had been alarmed by the number of deaths, which had been spread across Canberra both demographically and geographically.

The senior office said it had been hard to say whether a bad batch or a greater number of people using heroin had caused the spike in deaths.

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"Unfortunately people do die from drug use, you don’t know what you're getting when you get drugs. It can hurt you," he said.

"All drugs are dangerous. We don't know what’s been mixed with them, we don't know how they’ve been produced."

Detective Acting Station Sergeant Roswell said the deaths had all been preventable.

"These needless deaths leave a lasting impact on families, the first responders and the wider community," Detective Acting Station Sergeant Roswell said.

"We are calling on all members of the community to come forward with any information they have regarding the sale of heroin or any other illicit drugs in the ACT.

"Any piece of information, no matter how big or small, can be helpful. We will be relentless in our pursuit of those who are selling drugs in our suburbs."

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A major report, published recently, revealed annual drug deaths almost doubled in the decade to 2016, overtaking the road toll.

The Penington Institute overdose report said unintentional overdoses had claimed 13,471 lives during the period, at a national rate of 142 dead every month.

It identified legal pharmaceutical painkillers as the leading killer, however, most people die from a combination of substances in their system, including alcohol, heroin, amphetamines and synthetic cannabis.

Heroin caused 554 deaths between 2002 and 2006, but that figure surged to 1183 fatalities between 2012 and 2016.

Amphetamine deaths more than quadrupled from 298 to 1237.

"You don't need a drug problem to overdose," Penington Institute's chief executive John Ryan warned.

Anyone with information about the sale or supply of illicit drugs should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or via the Crime Stoppers ACT website.

Information can be provided anonymously.