Drug users put the hard word on the elderly in regional Australia, says Rural Doctors Association

File photo
File photo

Rural doctors have voiced concern the elderly are falling prey to drug pushers and addicts in regional areas seeking their prescription painkillers.

With estimates some opiate drugs can sell for up to $80 a tablet, some pensioners have taken the opportunity to sell their drugs to make ends meet. Often they are pressured to sell, the Rural Doctors Association says.

The outcry has come after a number of prescription-caused deaths in regional Victoria. One doctor has described the painkiller misuse a “major health problem”

Doctors are urging state governments to consider real-time tracking of prescription drugs to reign in the problem.

Three of the major drugs prescribed to the elderly who are dealing with pain which have been sought after by drug users include oxycodone, endone and morphine. About 800 people die in Australia a year from abuse of prescription drugs.

One doctor told The Land, a milligram of oxycodone could be worth $1. One tablet could be worth $80.

Dr Sue Harrison from Echuca, Victoria, said she was worried the elderly were falling prey to people who wanted to get hold of their drugs.

 Oxycodone is one of the painkillers sought from the elderly.

Oxycodone is one of the painkillers sought from the elderly.

Although she didn’t see many people who did this, she knew it had occurred in her area, and that it appeared to be a growing problem. There was in incident of an elderly person stood over in the street in Mildura for their painkilling drugs.

She urged governments to install real-time tracking of prescriptions from the doctor to chemists. Already Victoria was investigating a possible system.

She said most of the drugs were very dangerous if not used properly.

Some addicts were even using needles to inject themselves with dissolved pills, Dr Harrison said.

“A lot of the opiates are dangerous. The consequences of injecting drugs that should be taken orally are very serious, not a good thing.

“I’m led to believe that some of these drugs sell for $1 a milligram. There is significant stress on some pensioners to sell them.

“We (the  Rural Doctors Association) are aware there have been quite a few deaths recently from people taking prescription drugs. What we are calling for is some real-time prescription monitoring.”

She said often pensioners suffering chronic pain had little alternative than alleviating symptoms with painkillers due to a lack of extra therapy services such as physios and other treatments in regional areas, which were widely available in the city.

Therefore the use of painkillers was higher in regional places, she said.