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I attend and deliver many community forums on alcohol and other drugs across Australia, and at every one of these the audience is always looking for a simple easy to implement solution to the problem they are facing.
“How can we stop people taking illegal drugs? And how do we know they are taking illegal drugs so we can stop them from taking these drugs?”
So if I could wave a magic wand and solve all their problems believe me I would.
Our desire for easy solutions to complex problems may prohibit us from seeing that long term thinking is needed and that prevention may be better than the cure.
When I talk about the number of deaths caused by the overuse of pharmaceutical opioids and benzodiazepines and that these deaths are higher than the road toll, or 3 times more than illegal drugs combined, there seems to be a change in thinking and attitude. The penny drops – drug taking is always with us and then the question we ask is what can we as a community do?
When taking illegal drugs there is a deliberate attempt to alter the chemical make-up of our brains, but when taking a pharmaceutical we are wanting a remedy for whatever ails us. Those who have unfortunately died due to overdosing on prescribed opioids or benzodiazepines have in the majority of cases done so inadvertently, either from overuse or mixing drugs accidentally.
Our research shows that those who have died from prescription or over the counter drugs have in fact been using them for insomnia, pain, stress and anxiety.
There is nothing wrong with people using pharmaceutical drugs to feel better, but with 60% of us having poor health literacy we need to make sure that people understand the complications that can arise and possible alternatives to drug therapy.
Communities can raise awareness of the issues at forums and events, and work with local health authorities to hold health awareness programs. However health literacy is more than just raising awareness.
WHO international states that health literacy is not just people being aware about health issues but more importantly how they understand the information they have been given.
Health literacy is tied to reading and comprehension literacy plus also digital literacy. Here are some of things you can do in your community:
Continue to inform yourself of the issues around the over use of pharmaceutical opioids and benzodiazepines.
You can find more information on our advocacy page, Are you taking a risk?