The opioid epidemic is a global problem, and it has fully landed on Australia’s shores. If you’re concerned that someone you care about may be in the clutches of prescription drug addiction, here’s what you can do.
There’s no doubt about it – the prescription drug addiction epidemic is a global problem. It’s garnered the most attention in the US – particularly in terms of opioids, which often end up giving way to outright heroin addiction. But Australia is by no means immune, and current trends suggest that we’re moving through the early stages of an opioid epidemic of our own.
Earlier this year, we reported on the introduction of new laws against over-the-counter codeine in an attempt to curb opioid addiction in Australia. But this new legislation will take time to implement, and it’s not scheduled to take effect until February of next year. Many experts are warning that the stakes are far too high – and that far too many Australians are already in the clutches of addiction. Could your loved one be one of them?
Australia’s Opioid Epidemic Could Get Much Worse
The Penington Institute released a report earlier this year detailing the severity of Australia’s opioid addiction. The paper found that just over 3,600 Australians died of opioid-related overdoses in the four-year period from 2011 to 2015. This works out to double the number of people who overdosed over the same period of time a decade earlier (2001 to 2015).
In the context of an entire country, a few thousand lives may seem like it’s far from a serious problem. But when you consider the fact that twice as many people are overdosing on opioids compared to a decade ago, it’s clear that a disturbing trend has developed.
And it’s only going to get worse. Look to the US, where prescription opioids got a foothold earlier. In one year (2015), more than 15,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids. Admittedly, the US has a much larger population than Australia, but that’s a significantly higher per-capita rate of fatal overdoses than we experienced last year. Left unchecked, we’re going to see the same trend develop on our own shores.
The Prescription Opioid Epidemic Is a Silent Killer in Australia
Prescription opioids are often billed as the ‘silent killer’. Many abusers began using their drug of choice legally and for its intended purpose. The problem is that the user quickly builds up a tolerance to opioids. Higher doses are needed to maintain the drug’s effectiveness. It doesn’t take long before the person genuinely feels the need to take more than their doctor will prescribe.
This leads them to other channels, which in turn increases demand for opioids on the street. Chronic pain sufferers start looking to dealers for drugs like fentanyl or other opioids that will numb the pain – even heroin. Of course, other addicts exhibiting drug-seeking behaviour will do the same. It’s easy to imagine how an epidemic like this can escalate out of control.
Prescription drug addiction is particularly heinous in this regard. It’s often difficult for loved ones to see the warning signs before full-blown addiction has set in. The addict wasn’t necessarily hanging out with the wrong crowd, or acting out because of depression, stress or mental illness. They may even have been following their doctor’s orders – at least at first.
Abusing Prescription Opioids Is Like Playing Russian Roulette
Unlike outright illicit drugs, prescription opioids can be obtained legally with a prescription. Meanwhile, a poorly regulated distribution network makes it easy for addicts and even dealers to ‘shop around’ for prescriptions, vary the pharmacies they visit and ultimately obtain more of the drug than any single physician intended.
Relative ease of access makes certain opioids particularly dangerous. Fentanyl is a major offender in this regard. Doctors prescribe it for pain management, but it’s often diverted for more nefarious purposes. Some Australians are even injecting fentanyl in a practice dubbed ‘Russian roulette’ for its frighteningly high fatality rate.
It’s all but impossible for users to regulate their dosage when taking fentanyl in this way. They might as well spin the cylinder of a revolver to determine whether they live or die.
Recovery from Prescription Opioid Addiction is Possible – and We Can Help
Opioid addiction is a complicated issue, primarily because drugs in this category do provide real and profound benefits to people who suffer from chronic pain. It’s absolutely essential that patients are monitored in order to ensure that they’re receiving the proper dosages – and that multiple prescriptions aren’t being filled for the same person.
At the same time, help is also available for those who have already locked in a cycle of addiction with fentanyl or another prescription opioid. The Cabin Melbourne offers confidential outpatient addiction treatment here in our area to help our clients manage and overcome emerging addictive behaviour. For more serious cases, we can also refer clients to our inpatient centre in beautiful northern Thailand.
It’s never too late to seek recovery. But it’s also never too early to seek help for something as serious as a potential opioid addiction. If someone you care about is struggling, we can help. Contact us today for a confidential assessment.