Addiction: BCHS staff have been providing training on, and prescriptions for, naloxone, which reverses the affects of opioid overdose. Photo: FILE

‘Worrying trend’ in alcohol and drug use

July 29, 2021 BY

VICTORIA’s fifth COVID-19 lockdown has resulted in a rise in illicit drug prices, according to Bendigo Health Community Services.

The BCHS Drug and Alcohol team said the rise could lead to an increase in demand of prescription medications such as benzodiazepine or opioids, which are dangerous if misused.

“When illicit drugs become too expensive, or the quality drops, or access becomes an issue in times such as these COVID-19 lockdowns, we know people turn to prescription medications as the alternative,” BCHS drug safety worker Paul Morgan said.

“It’s important for people to remember that any opioid when used incorrectly is very dangerous and the threat of overdose remains very real.

“Prescription medications should only be used to treat the conditions they are prescribed for and following the directions very clearly at all times.”

Mr Morgan said opioid users should have access to naloxone, an injection or nasal spray “which temporarily reverses the effects of an overdose and gives you time to get emergency services involved”.

“Our AOD team provides naloxone prescriptions and basic training on its use,” he said. “This should be considered essential if you use opioids or spend any time with someone who does.”

He said when drug prices rise or during COVID-19 lockdowns, people may experience withdrawal and anyone withdrawing from drugs, whether forced or a lifestyle choice, should seek the care of a GP or health professional.

The BCHS also recommends people monitor how much alcohol they consume during Victoria’s fifth lockdown, noticing a “worrying trend” in increased drinking.

“Habits can form quickly and while we aren’t saying people shouldn’t drink, we are saying they must be careful around the amount of alcohol they are consuming,” Mr Morgan said.

In 2019 to 2020, alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia reported around 469,000 people aged 10 years and over had received treatment for substance abuse.

Thirty-three per cent of those people were treated for alcohol, 28 per cent for amphetamines and 18 per cent for cannabis and five per cent for heroin.

BCHS alcohol and other drug treatment services including pharmacotherapy, the needle syringe program and Nova House are all available during COVID-19 lockdowns.

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