Pharmacy 777 and ScriptWise are urging pharmacists to speak with patients about the risks associated with long-term use of benzos and opioids

As part of ScriptWise’s inaugural National Prevention of Prescription Medication Dependence Week, running from 14-18 May, Pharmacy 777 is asking pharmacists to start conversations with their patients about the risks associated with using benzodiazepines or opioids long-term.

In 2016, prescription medication-related deaths accounted for approximately 68% of drug deaths in WA, more than double that of a decade ago, says the pharmacy group.

In the same year, benzodiazepines were identified in 663 (36.7%) of drug-related deaths.

The combined use of benzodiazepines with other medications such as opioids or alcohol can lead to dangerous levels of sedation and even death.

Pharmacists play an important role in educating patients about the quality use of prescription medications in order to combat these trends, says Pharmacy 777 Managing Director Kim Brotherson.

“When people are taking multiple medications it can often be confusing, so it can be helpful to explain their use, and ensure they are working well together,” says Mr Brotherson.

“Pharmacists also play an essential role in helping patients identify if the combination of their medication use could be dangerous.”

ScriptWise Chair Dr Richard Kidd agrees that better patient education is essential to halt the rising tide of prescription medication overdose deaths.

“Many patients are unaware that prescription medications such as opioids and benzodiazepines can be highly addictive and dangerous to use long-term,” said Dr Kidd.

“Prescription medication dependence can happen to anyone, and sometimes without their knowledge. The body develops a tolerance to the medication leading to them needing to take more and more to get the same effect.”

For Mr Brotherson and the Pharmacy 777 Group, compassion is key to ensuring patients receive the best professional care.

“There is a lot of stigma around seeking help for dependency. Pharmacists can help to reassure patients that prescription medication dependency can happen to people from all walks of life and that there are effective treatments available.”