A Ballarat health expert is calling for greater awareness, rather than blame, is needed to help tackle rising prescription medication misuse.
Ballarat Community Health harm minimisation coordinator Pauline Molloy said prescription medications were potent. She said misuse and misunderstanding were a major health issue.
Accidental drug-related death in Australia is now more than double the road toll from car accidents, according to the Penington Institute. Prescription medications account for about 70 per cent of these drug-related deaths, higher than heroin or illicit drugs.
Ballarat averaged 5.1 overdose deaths per 100,000 people each year between 2009-2016.
“It’s about understanding these are potent substances and that’s why you need a script,” Ms Molloy said.
“The main things to know are: take medication strictly as the doctor has prescribed; don’t give your prescription medication to other people; if your pain is not well-controlled, talk to your doctor, don’t try to increase the dose on your own; and, if you feel like you’re taking more than you need, or your use is getting our of control, talk to your doctor.”
Coroners deemed most overdose deaths in Victoria between 2009-16 were from combined drug toxicity.
BCH are Orticare Pharmacotherapy Network – between the Grampians, Loddon and Mallee – is urging community members to learn the risks of opioids and benzodiazepines as part of ScriptWise’s inaugural National Prevention of Prescription Medication Dependent Week.
ScriptWise aims to promote preventative action now before the health issue evolves into an opioid epidemic, like in the United States. More than 63,600 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2016 and 66 per cent of these deaths involved an opioid.
An Australian block on over-the-counter codeine, an opioid, took effect on February 1 in a bid to curb addiction and misuse.
Ms Molloy said codeine had offered people a chance to self-manage their pain, but the ban had been a good chance for people to review personal pain management with a general practitioner.
ScriptWise is pushing for the federal government to invest in a national public awareness campaign.
Ms Molloy said it was important people also know what was available in their community. She urged anyone who may have concerns about a loved one’s prescription medication misuse to visit a BCH site for advice and from where opioid reversal drug naloxone was dispensed free.
BCH is also holding a pop-up awareness stall in Stockland Wendouree on Friday morning for anyone to drop by for a chat.
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