'Hillbilly heroin' becoming drug of choice

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    'Hillbilly heroin' becoming drug of choice

    Use of some tablets increasing 40-fold
    Oxycodone and morphine are drugs of choice
    Doctors told to stop being so trusting
    AUSTRALIANS are increasingly abusing prescription drugs such as oxycodone, which is also known as "hillbilly heroin", experts have warned.

    They say we are heading down the same path as the United States, where more people abuse prescription drugs than they do cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, ecstasy and inhalants combined, AdelaideNow reported.

    Anaesthetists wrote in yesterday's Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists Bulletin that "naive" doctors need to be more sceptical when patients ask for pain relief.

    "We 'naive doctors' who have been trained all our lives to believe our patients and accept that 'pain is what the patient says hurts' and trained to take things at face value are now being asked to become suspicious, questioning and, in fact, sceptical if we are asked for prescriptions for opioids or benzodiazepines," ANZCA's Faculty of Pain Medicine dean Dr Penelope Briscoe said.

    She also backed a call by doctors for the Federal Government to review the prescription and dispensation of opiates.

    Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia pharmacotherapy services director Professor Jason White said the main prescription drugs abused in Australia were oxycodone and morphine.

    Nationally, the use of morphine tablets has increased 40-fold since 1990, and there has been a four-fold increase in the supply of oxycodone, one of the drugs on which actor Health Ledger overdosed last year.

    "A major part of that is the increasing prescribing of these drugs, particularly the opioids," Professor White said.

    "We know that the more they're prescribed, the more they are used, the more people will develop problems."

    He said there were two sides to the problem - people becoming addicted to drugs they began using to treat an existing pain problem, and prescription drugs being sold to people through the illegal market.

    The drugs have a sedative effect and are highly addictive.

    By Tory ShepherdThe AdvertiserSeptember 22, 2009 12:00am


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