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Settlement Guide: why you should take precautions with prescription medication

Source: GettyImages/Nenovo

Most overdose deaths in Australia are from prescription drugs.

Bee Mohamed is the CEO of ScriptWise, a not-for-profit dedicated to reducing the use of prescription medication.

She says people do not realise how quickly they can get addicted.

In only a couple of weeks some can get addicted to a medication.

John Ryan is the CEO of the Penington Institute, a not-for-profit working on countering substance abuse.

They’re also the founder of International Overdose Awareness Day, on August 31st.

He says anyone can be at risk of addiction.

"People used to think that the overdose problem was just about heroin or illegal drugs and that it only affected people that were illegal drug users. But actually, most overdose deaths in Australia are from prescription drugs.”

If you get prescribed strong painkillers like morphine or oxycodone, he recommends you talk to your doctor and pharmacist to make sure you understand how to take them properly.

Most people don’t realise that prescribed medication or even over the counter medication comes with risks.

This is what happened to Paul.

"My addiction started when I was about 21 years of age. I had a sports injury, a shoulder injury playing football and I was taking Panadol for that. That wasn't working so a friend suggested taking some medication called Nurofen Plus. That's where it all started. I was taking two a day, then it got up to four and five and six and then eventually it got to 90 tablets a day before I got rushed to the hospital."

The drug Paul took will only be available with a prescription from February 2018.

That’s part of the new measures to have a better control on painkillers and other prescription medication.

The government will also roll out a new prescription drug monitoring system in the next 18 months.

ScriptWise’s Bee Mohamed explains how prescriptions will be tracked.

"It will be the first system in Australia that will allow GPs and pharmacists to have access to that information just so they're able to ensure that before they write that script, that's actually a patient that doesn't have a script somewhere else or potentially to really understand the kind of dosage of the medication the patient is on and then whether to understand if the patient is at risk or dependency or not. It's something that would allow health professionals to make a more informed decision really."

John Ryan from the Penington Institute encourages everybody with a prescription drugs problem to seek help through their GP.

If you think you need help, know someone who does, talk to your GP or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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