The problem of prescription drug addiction, or opioid painkiller dependence, is more common than many people realise. In fact, rates of prescription drug dependency are soaring to dangerous levels with dependence on prescription medication now a bigger problem in Australia than heroin dependency.

Did you know?

  • Prescriptions for oxycodone increased in Australia more than 152% between 2002 and 2008.
  • It is estimated that one in fifty Australians are currently taking a benzodiazepine, such as Valium, and have been taking the drug for longer than 6 months.
  • Deaths from prescription drug overdose far exceed other overdose deaths, according to a Victorian Coroner’s report from 2013. This report detailed that nearly 40% of overdose deaths were prescription drugs only, while illegal drugs alone counted for only 13.9% of overdose deaths[1].

Prescription drug dependency often develops after legitimate use following a sporting injury, road accident or surgery. The legitimate requirement for these drugs can mask the transition to dependency and is one of the reasons it can be hard to spot.

Being such a prevalent health problem in Australia, it’s important to learn to recognise signs that someone you care about might need help.

The Medical Director of The Banyans, Dr Christian Rowan of Addiction Sciences Queensland, has provided the following signs to look out for if you think someone you care about is developing a dependency.

Have you noticed that you or someone you know:

  1. Frequently run out of opioid painkiller medication early?
  2. Are starting to take more and more opioid-based medication?
  3. Feel that current dosing levels of medication are too low?
  4. Are starting to find reasons to get more prescription painkillers eg telling family members that medicine has been lost, spilt, stolen or that prescriptions have been lost?
  5. Try to obtain prescription from doctors apart from a usual doctor (also known as doctor shopping)?
  6. Use other opioid-based medicines as well as the ones prescribed?
  7. Use prescribed opioid-based medicine in combination with other drugs or alcohol to ensure intoxication?

If you answered yes to a number of these questions, these could be signs of a dependency on prescription medication. Long-term use and abuse of prescription medications can lead to serious health problems including liver damage, stomach ulceration or heart and kidney problems.

It’s helpful and appropriate to think about these dependencies as a pain and health issue which people can and do recover from.


This perspective allows people to freely consider how to get help rather than feeling a misplaced sense of failure which can inhibit recovery strategies.


If you recognise some of these signs, begin a conversation with the person you care about, expressing your support for them and their long-term health. If you recognise these signs in yourself, begin a conversation with your doctor about these signs. If you don’t have a doctor to talk to about this, Addiction Sciences Queensland has a lot of experience in this area and can provide support and assistance for you or your loved one.

There is always hope – addiction is a chronic disease from which people can and do recover. Effective comprehensive treatments are available.

Designed for integrated restoration, and with an expert team of therapists, health practitioners and wellness coaches, The Banyans is a place where body and soul prosper in an environment of rest, wellness and inspired living.

Call us now on 1300 BANYAN (1300 226 926) or complete a digital enquiry form for a confidential discussion about how you or someone you care about can benefit from The Banyans.