Former NRL star opens up about painkiller addiction

Pharmacy Guild says the revelation is a powerful reminder that we need to start acting on a real-time monitoring system

This week, former NRL star Matt Cooper spoke to News Corp about his addiction battle with prescription painkillers that landed him in hospital for treatment.

Cooper was discharged from a NSW mental health hospital last Thursday, one month after admitting himself for intensive treatment for addiction to Endone and other prescription medications.

“It was a cocktail of prescription meds, painkillers,” said Cooper, who played NRL for St George Illawarra.

“I was like, ‘I’m taking too many pills here.’ There were times there I was like, ‘I’m not going to wake up.’

“I Googled how people die from this drug and they just stop breathing. That is when I realised I had to tell my wife. You can only hold a secret for so long and I was just getting tired,” Cooper told the publication.

“Speaking to my wife was really hard to do because I had been lying to her for months.

“That was one of the hardest things to do, to tell my wife the truth — that was harder than actually coming off the drug. I just kept taking more and more. It got to the point where the medication I was taking wasn’t working anymore. My body built up a resistance to it and I just knew it was time so I confessed.”

The “courageous” decision by former NRL star Matt Cooper to go public about his battle with prescription painkillers is a powerful and timely reminder of the need for a national real-time monitoring system for drugs of dependence, says the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

Guild Executive Director David Quilty says the system was first promised in 2010 based on a Tasmanian prototype solution with Commonwealth implementation funding.

“Six-and-a-half years later and it still has not been rolled out in any other State or Territory,” Quilty states.

“This failure must be rectified as a matter of priority with all governments held publicly accountable for implementing the system to agreed, publicly available timeframes.

“While a national real-time monitoring system is not a panacea, it is a vital tool and needs to be accompanied by increased investment in pain management and rehabilitation support programs,” he says.

“Tragically, for some families this investment cannot bring back a lost loved one. But, for many thousands of others whose family members suffer from chronic pain or have become inadvertently addicted, it may make the ultimate difference.

“The Pharmacy Guild will continue advocating and working with other health professionals, patient and family groups, and governments until this long overdue gap in the health system is addressed.”

Read the original News Corp story here.

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