Non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs on the rise

Paul Hayes

19/12/2017 12:16:28 PM

Close to one million Australians are misusing pharmaceutical drugs, a new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report has found.

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The AIHW report revealed a 24% increase in the rate of dispensed prescriptions for opioids in the three years to 2015.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) Non–medical use of pharmaceuticals: Trends, harms and treatment: 2006–07 to 2015–16, 4.8% of the population (around one million people) aged 14 or older misused a pharmaceutical drug in the past 12 months in 2016, up from 3.7% in 2007. The non-medical use of pharmaceuticals was found to be higher than all illegal drugs (except cannabis) in 2016.
More than half of those who misuse painkillers buy them over the counter at a pharmacy. The report showed a 24% increase in rate of dispensed prescriptions for opioids, from 36,900 dispensed prescriptions per 100,000 population in 2010–11 to 45,600 in 2014–15.
The report, which primarily examined opioid analgesics (ie codeine, morphine, tramadol) and benzodiazepines, also revealed that drug-induced deaths are more likely to result from prescription rather than illegal drugs.
‘In 2016 there were 1808 drug-induced deaths in Australia, with benzodiazepines the most common single drug type, identified in 663 drug-induced deaths. This is followed by 550 deaths from other opioids, including prescription painkillers such as oxycodone, morphine and codeine,’ AIHW spokesperson Matthew James said.
The report showed Australians in remote or very remote areas are almost twice as likely to have recently used a pharmaceutical for non-medical purposes as those in major cities, while 6% of people in the most disadvantaged socioeconomic areas recently misused pharmaceuticals, compared with 4.2% in the most advantaged areas.

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