THE RAMPANT growth of prescription drug OxyContin being abused and onsold on the black market has been highlighted by a Bendigo magistrate, who referred to it as the “heroin of the bush”.
Issues of drug abuse, fraudulent prescriptions, and illegal sale of the narcotic painkiller have increasingly come before the court, Magistrate Jennifer Tregent said.
Magistrate Tregent said there seemed to be a rise in crime associated with the drug locally.
In sentencing the case of White Hills man Martin Underhill, who was fined for using a false document to obtain OxyContin, she said it had become “too prevalent”.
“There is a big problem with this drug and a big problem with trafficking of this drug,” she said.
“It’s become known, as I understand, ‘the heroin of the bush’... It’s happening too often where people are getting access to blank script pads and accessing these drugs.”
Acting Senior Sergeant Mick Peckham said the Central Victorian Response Unit – which handles drug investigations – was increasingly seeing OxyContin being sold in drug deals.
Acting Senior Sergeant Peckham said the over-the-counter drugs weren’t as prominent on the drug trade as illicit drugs such as ice, but he said it was an issue for police.
“It’s fair to say it’s a prescription medication that is open to abuse by people,” he said. “If people abuse the drug or on-sell the drug it becomes trafficking and police will become involved.”
Bendigo Community Health Services general manager of primary health and integrated care, Cheryl Sobczyk, said there had been cases locally of people seeking help in drug rehabilitation services who identified prescription opiates as their primary drug of concern.
“There’s a range of issues into how people access these opiates,” she said.
“Some are obtaining them illicitly and others are prescribed the drugs for genuine reasons, but end up becoming dependent on them. It becomes an issue around addiction if they may become dependent on medication for chronic pain relief.”
In an armed robbery of the Elmore pharmacy on July 18 last year, one offender stole 27 boxes of OxyContin.
According to Victoria Health guidelines for medical practitioners, patients “often use fraudulent documents to fuel their drug dependence”.
Under Victorian legislation, prescribers of drugs such as OxyContin have been forced to undertake more thorough identification and validity checks, and include checks of any preceding period of treatment by other medical practitioners.
Ms Sobczyk said there were a range of trials being held across the country, looking at greater moderation of who could be prescribed the drug and monitoring the scripts on a real-time database.
She said OxyContin could have a similar effect as heroin and tendencies toward addiction was a “complex issue” that required a lot of legislative and social changes to help manage.
If anyone has information about misuse of prescription drugs contact Bendigo police on 5448 1300.