Australians misusing painkillers

Paul Hayes

25/10/2017 12:00:00 AM

Figures have shown that 75% of recent painkiller/opioid misusers in Australia reported misusing an over-the-counter codeine product in 2016. This follows recent news that drug-induced deaths in Australia are at their highest rates in almost two decades, with opioids killing more people than illicit drugs methamphetamines and heroin.

Recent figures show that more Australians are misusing painkillers
Recent figures show that more Australians are misusing painkillers

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) National Drug Strategy household survey: Detailed findings 2016, about one in 20 Australians (4.8%) reported misusing pharmaceuticals and one in 27 (3.6%) had misused painkillers/opiates.
The survey also revealed a significant rise in mental illness among methamphetamine and ecstasy users, with 27% of people who used an illicit drug in the previous year having been diagnosed or treated for a mental illness, an increase from 21% in 2013.
‘In 2016, 42% of methamphetamine users had a mental illness, up from 29% in 2013, while the rate of mental illness among ecstasy users also rose from 18% to 27%,’ AIHW spokesperson Matthew James said.
According to James, this situation represents something of a chicken–egg scenario.
‘Drug use is a complex issue and it’s difficult to determine to what degree drug use causes mental health problems, and to what degree mental health problems give rise to drug use,’ he said.
The AIHW figures also revealed a sharp increase in illicit drug use among people who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.
‘Homosexual and bisexual people were almost six times as likely as heterosexual people to use [ecstasy and methamphetamines], and were also about four times as likely to use cocaine as heterosexual people, and three times more likely to use cannabis or misuse pharmaceutical drugs,’ James said.

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Philip Rapson   26/10/2018 11:11:43 AM

As a over 70 year old doctor under supervision I get checked every 2 weeks on my opioid prescriptions. Happy to say that since stopping nursing home consultations I find it easy to say that there are no short term narcotics scripts to worry about and few long terms. I have a stack of requests from pharmacists asking me to give current scripts for long term narcotics for my former nursing home and I am very grateful that I can refuse. There is not much wrong with doctors that the appalling attitude of the medical council and the health department cannot fix

Peter Jones   1/07/2019 5:34:40 PM

The medical profession’s attitude to painkillers can be somewhat retrograde at times. My wife, who died from cancer last year, would often be denied pain relief, or prescribed at a low rate by Dr Do-gooder even though she was in chronic pain from bone mets. One time, the surgeon forgot to prescribe painkillers post brain surgery, until I arrived on the ward to find her in agony the following morning. While I realise their is a substance abuse problem with opioids, there is always a danger of under prescribing for patients who really do need these drugs. The problem would seem to be one of incorrect dispensing if the drug when it is not warranted.