Dependence on prescription drugs is often unintentional, can be quite subtle, but if left untreated can lead to overdose or even death.
It's a problem that often slips under the radar, according to Bendigo based pharmacist Toni Riley.
In Greater Bendigo 49 people died due to overdoses of prescription medication between 2009 and 2015.
Miss Riley said drug dependency meant people could cause harm to themselves without realising their danger.
"The problem with dependency is that people ultimately aren’t using the medications as they’re intended," Miss Riley said.
"Potentially they’re needing to increase the dose more and more, to unsafe levels."
Miss Riley said often becoming dependent on the drug is unintentional on a patient's part.
It can even be "quite subtle".
For instance, one sign might be a person's medicine running out more often.
To combat this, a prescription monitoring system, SafeScript, is being rolled out across the state in the coming months.
The system allows pharmacists to access information about supply for high risk drugs when consulting with patients.
If left untreated, prescription drug dependence can put a person at risk of overdose.
Some factors can put people at a higher risk of prescription drug dependency, Miss Riley said.
"There’s sometimes a family history, a history of dependence on other medication, alcohol dependency can be an issues, a previous history of dependency," Miss Riley said.
Certain medications have a higher risk of dependency. Analgesic painkillers which contain opioids and Benzodiazepines, such as Valium, all put the user at a greater risk.
It was hard for someone dependent on medicine to break that dependency, Miss Riley said.
She said doctors and pharmacists were the first point of call for those who needed help with drug dependency.
It's a problem many people are not aware of, she said.
Miss Riley will be part of a panel of experts at a community forum to discuss medication dependence.
She encouraged all members of the community to come to the forum.
"It’s about letting the community know this is a problem, because it does slip under the radar," Miss Riley said.
Bendigo Tafe on February 26, from 3.30 to 5pm.
To register visit: https://bit.ly/2GaVvPT
For support with prescription drug dependency contact the National Drug and Alcohol Hotline on 1800 250 015.
In an emergency contact Triple Zero (000).
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