The number of drug overdose deaths in Victoria has risen every year since 2010, and pharmaceutical drugs have contributed significantly to that increase, says Melissa Davey in a report for The Guardian.
Pharmaceutical drugs caused 80% of OD deaths
Davey’s report was quoting coroners’ court data, which shows that between 2009 and 2015, Victoria recorded an average of 376 overdose deaths a year. The annual frequency also rose since 2010, and reached 420 deaths in 2015.
The coroner’s data also showed that about 80% of these overdose deaths can be directly attributed to pharmaceutical drugs, particularly benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax. These drugs, which are prescribed for anxiety, contributed to those fatal overdoses more frequently than any other drug group.
With this development, coroner Audrey Jamieson recommended in her report that in order to lessen the number of injuries and deaths related to prescription drugs in Victoria, the state has to implement a badly-needed real time prescription monitoring system.
According to Jamieson, a real time prescription monitoring system will not just prevent doctor shopping, but will also pinpoint doctors who over-prescribe to their patients. She admits, however, that implementing such a system would be rather complex.
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Deaths rose despite stricter prescription guidelines and reformulation
The fact that prescription drugs managed to contribute that significantly to overdose deaths in Victoria in spite of more stringent prescription guidelines and the reformulation of some drugs to make them safer is cause for worry. And while the real time prescription monitoring system recommended by Jamieson might help check doctors’ tendency to over-prescribe, it still wouldn’t account for prescription drugs obtained illegally.
The Internet, after all, is one big pharmacy. Anyone could just buy as many pharmaceutical drugs as they like without a doctor’s prescription. It’s highly likely that a number of those fatal overdoses on pharmaceutical drugs were caused by illegally obtained ones.