Prescriptions are needed to obtain codeine.
Prescriptions are needed to obtain codeine. Daily Telegraph

Prescription overdose deaths rise

PRESCRIPTION opioids, including codeine and oxycodone, are the leading cause of accidental overdose deaths in Australia - and regional and remote residents are being hit the hardest.

According to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, more people are overdosing on prescription than illicit drugs.

The report found of the 1,808 overdose deaths in 2016, the most common substances present were benzodiazepine and other opoids including codeine, oxycodone and morphine.

Around 1 in 20 Australians aged 14 and over admitted to using prescription drugs for non-medicinal purposes.

In 2016, people living outside major cities were found to be 1.7 times as likely to have misused prescription drugs. Particularly, the use of opioid-based painkillers was twice as high.

This coincides with data from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program that found oxycodone and fentanyl were detected at higher levels in regional areas.

The latest report has prompted a response from NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley, who has announced NSW Labour will introduce real-time monitoring in pharmacies of prescription opioid drugs.

Since February, chemists have been banned from selling codeine products without a prescription following 'substantial' evidence of harm from misuse of the medicines.

This includes products such as Nurofen Plus and Panadeine.

Some Advocate readers have said they're unhappy with the changes.

"Waiting at doctors for cold and flu has caused so much sickness for everyone. Even worse when you take your kids to emergency with a broken finger and nine people in front of you are there for colds,” said Karen Clayton.

"Have to wait two weeks to see the doctor and that's two weeks I can't work. How many people are going to lose their jobs due to too many days off sick and in pain?” Kylie Armstrong said.

Some said it hasn't had a significant impact on their lives.



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