Deb watched the boy she’d raised turn into an unrecognisable shadow of his former self. Family and friends were cast aside as Sam would spend his days visiting multiple GPs in pursuit of multiple prescriptions. Once, she recalls, he hurt his back at work and ended up getting a CT scan showing he had a slightly bulged disc. The hunt for opioids suddenly became even easier.
“It was like his ticket,” the Central Coast mother recalls. “He’d take those results everywhere.”
Opioid pharmaceuticals are regularly prescribed by GPs to ease pain, and people with chronic conditions say they genuinely need them to survive. But as an epidemic in usage has shown, they can be highly addictive, are commonly misused and are potentially deadly.
Figures from the Bureau of Statistics show that every day in Australia three people die of opioid harm and a further 150 are hospitalised. Sam was lucky enough not to be in the former category, but plenty of times he was among the latter. Too often, Deb would just sit by his hospital bed after an overdose, unsure if he would live or die.
Now 23, Sam is finally on the path to recovery. He checked into a rehabilitation centre two weeks ago, and this time, says Deb, “he actually wants to be there.”
But she is under no illusions about how hard it will be to break the cycle of addiction. Nor can she believe that there’s no national system in place to monitor prescriptions, that successive governments have been so slow to act and that drug companies around the world have been pushing their products so aggressively in the face of an emerging health crisis.
Her message to the nation’s health ministers is simple: “Stop dragging the chain. Just do something before another person gets caught up in this trap.”
Know more? Contact Farrah Tomazin on firstname.lastname@example.org