NSW accounted for 50 per cent of all drug related deaths in the country. And 10 per cent of all drug related deaths in the country occurred within a twokilometre radius of Springfield Mall in King’s Cross. The market has switched from predominately a heroin market to a predominantly amphetamine market. And last year for the first time the number of people who, at their most recent episode of injecting, injected amphetamines was greater than the percentage injecting heroin. This causes fewer deaths but it’s causing more psychosis.

So the incidence – the number of psychotic episodes related to amphetamines – increased 60 per cent from 2000 to 2004. We don’t have more recent figures yet… So, there’s a big correlation between alcohol and suicide, but a poor correlation between illicit drugs and suicide. There’s a big correlation between (illicit drug related) deaths but suicide’s a small proportion, perhaps only 5 per cent of illicit drug related deaths.

People who inject drugs die at a rate that is much less than many people would expect. It’s about 1.5 per cent per annum. Most people think the percentage dying each year would be much higher than that, although that’s still 20 times higher than you would expect of people of that age and sex, who don’t inject drugs… But I guess you people in the insurance industry would know these sorts of things.

Simon Swanson: I’m not sure. A lot of this happens below the insured line, outside the insurance industry.

Damian Hill: The disconnect we generally have is that we’re providing insurance cover which is sometimes the primary source within an employment relationship. And that employment relationship automatically skews figures.

Alex Wodak: Now the other big correlation in this area, in the insurance industry, is the high number of fires started in Australia which are related to smoking. But that’s a very close correlation. So, a lot of property fires and bush fires are started by cigarettes – just carelessness. Sometimes there’s a high correlation between heavy smoking and heavy drinking. And people who smoke and drink a lot, the risks are not often additive: they don’t add, they multiply.

For example, risks of cancer of the upper airways and the oesophagus, the gullet, are about 40 times greater for people who both smoke and drink. People who just drink heavily or just smoke heavily might have a 10 fold increase in risk of death from upper airways cancer. But if they do both it’s not 20 times greater it’s 40 times. So that interaction between drinking and tobacco is very important.

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