La Trobe University pharmacy students take action to tackle prescription dependence

Students are urging community members to learn the risks associated with medications like opioids and benzodiazepines amid concerns about a burgeoning health crisis.

Between 2009 and 2015 pharmaceutical overdoses accounted for approximately 84 per cent of overdose deaths in Greater Bendigo.

La Trobe University pharmacy students joined lecturers and local pharmacists on campus Thursday for a public forum on prescription medication misuse.

Local pharmacist and La Trobe lecturer Nick Standen led the forum, while students answered questions and provided information about medication.

La Trobe University's Nick Standen and Ella Maher offering information and answering questions on the dangers of prescription medications. Picture: DARREN HOWE

La Trobe University's Nick Standen and Ella Maher offering information and answering questions on the dangers of prescription medications. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Mr Standen said it was important for La Trobe to raise awareness about drug dependence.

“On a per capita basis regional Victoria is experiencing increasing pharmaceutical-related deaths, and at a far higher rate than in metropolitan areas – and Bendigo is not exempt from that,” Mr Standen said.

“As leaders in the local region, we want to use our knowledge and influence to make a difference to the levels of awareness and understanding of this tragic problem.”

La Trobe’s efforts came as not-for-profit ScriptWise CEO Bee Mohamed said local communities were leading the charge to address a burgeoning health crisis, but that investment in a widespread awareness campaign was essential.

“Without better education and preventative action now, we risk continuing on the same dangerous trajectory towards the devastating opioid epidemic we’re seeing in the US,” Ms Mohamed said.

In Victoria, the number of people who died from prescription medication-related overdose did not just outnumber illicit drug deaths. It also exceeded the road toll for the past five years.

Numurkah resident Donna Mangles’ son Jamie Anderson died after overdosing on oxycodone five months ago.

He had faced drug addiction for 13 years and had been getting his life back together when he was given oxycodone after a head injury.

“For me, this is still very raw. But I want to get the message out there about early intervention to parents of teenagers, and what they need to be looking out for,” she said.

Early education and intervention was paramount, Mrs Mangles said. She encouraged parents to have an open and transparent dialogue with children.

“It’s really clear that we need to be speaking with our teenage sons and daughters about the effects of prescription medicine, or methamphetamine, alcohol, any of those addictions have on the body.”