Isabella Ross

From 14-18 May, non-for-profit organisation Script Wise will be hosting its annual National Prevention of Prescription Medication Dependence Week. With prescription medication misuse nearing crisis point in Australia, raising awareness about the potential harms of addiction and promoting existing prevention efforts is at the forefront of this year’s campaign.

There is no doubt that accidental deaths in relation to prescription medication addiction have increased significantly within recent years. The national report by the Penington Institute found that of the 1,242 drug-related deaths in Australia in 2015, 69 per cent of the deaths were as a result of prescription medication misuse.

The report indicates that more people die of an overdose of prescription medications such as oxycodone than from illicit drugs,” said CEO of the Penington Institute John Ryan.

In a recent attempt to combat the growing issue of prescription medication dependence, the Australian Government announced that all medicines containing a low dosage of codeine would require a doctor’s prescription. This was met with initial outrage from Australians suffering from chronic pain, with regular medications like Panadeine, Nurofen Plus and Codral Flu no longer being available over the counter. Yet according to the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, the vast majority of Australian medical leaders and public health authorities have welcomed the decision to make codeine available only by prescription.

Low dose codeine products that have been available over the counter are no better and often less effective than other analgesics but have more harmful side effects,” Wells explained.

Unfortunately opioid addictions do not discriminate, with the likes of music legend Prince, Australian actor Heath Ledger and everyday individuals dying from severe prescription drug dependence. Last month, Rugby League icon Matt Cooper revealed his addiction battle with Endone on Sunday Night, admitting himself earlier this year for intensive treatment after a year-long struggle that saw him on the verge of death.

It is hoped that by starting integral conversations within the community, it could ultimately save those battling with addiction from becoming yet another number that conveys the deadly consequence of prescription drug dependence.