Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) Honours


School of Psychology


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science

First Supervisor

Dr Greg Dear

Second Supervisor

Dr Susan Carruthers


While there are current opioid overdose prevention strategies in Western Australia, these strategies are targeted at illicit opioid users and rely on bystander presence to intervene. The aim of the current study was to identify disparities between current overdose prevention strategies and the actual circumstances surrounding opioid related fatalities, to inform the development of best-practice opioid overdose prevention strategies for Western Australia. To do this, coronial files were drawn from the National Coronial Information System for accidental illicit opioid related fatalities (N = 329) and accidental prescription opioid related fatalities (N = 126) for the years 2008 to 2012. Each group was separately examined for prevalence of bystander presence at fatal opioid overdoses, the help seeking behaviours of those present, reasons for not intervening, and whether there were there any demographic variables associated with bystander presence. Additionally, the illicit opioid group was examined for geographical fatality clusters. The results showed that the majority of both illicit opioid and prescription opioid fatalities occurred where there was no bystander present to intervene. Where there was bystander presence and the overdose was recognised, emergency services were frequently engaged. However, many bystanders failed to recognise an overdose in time to intervene. These findings suggest that current WA interventions that rely on bystander presence to intervene will have limited value in preventing opioid overdose fatalities. More emphasis must be placed on addressing solitary opioid use, as well as efforts to equip likely bystanders with the skills to recognise and respond to opioid overdose


Thesis Location