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Australia's high level of prescription medication misuse

Date posted: 3 September 2015

They are potent, highly addictive and legal. The increase in the recreational use of prescription sedatives and opiates has some Australian doctors calling for new measures to help prevent against misuse.

The increasing use of sedatives such as Valium, Xanax and Temazepam, and the opiate Oxycodone is of greatest concern to Dr Nick Carr and other like-minded doctors around the country.

'The rate of prescription of these medications has gone rocketing up. Oxycodone's graph is quite terrifying; it's just going directly up,' says Dr Carr.

'We know these drugs are out there and in increasing quantities, and causing huge harm.'

Dr Carr is Victoria's ambassador for ScriptWise, a non-profit organisation aimed at preventing the misuse of prescription medication.

He believes too many patients are prescribed opiates and sedatives without any understanding their potency.

'People come out of hospital on very strong painkillers, they start taking them, they go to the doctor for a repeat and within a few weeks, they find themselves hooked on these drugs.'

ScriptWise is one of a number of bodies calling for the introduction of a 'real time prescription monitoring service', where doctors could easily check what prescriptions patients have recently received.

'When a doctor has a patient sitting in front of them [who] they don't know saying "I've got terrible pain, I can't sleep, I need these drugs", they can look up [a database] and find out whether that person has had prescriptions for this medication recently,' says Dr Carr.

Dr Carr says such a database would drastically curb the practice of 'doctor shopping', when patients addicted to prescription medication rotate between doctors to gain multiple prescriptions.

Source: Radio National Afternoons


Last updated: 3 September 2015
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Australia's National Research Centre on AOD Workforce Development National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre National Drug Research Institute