21 Oct 2017

Opioid abuse - US crisis comes down under

From This Way Up, 12:10 pm on 21 October 2017
 US Drug Enforcement Administration(DEA) shows 20 mg pills of OxyCotin.

US Drug Enforcement Administration(DEA) shows 20 mg pills of OxyCotin. Photo: AFP or licensors

The opium poppy has been relieving pain and getting people high for at least five thousand years, but today there's an epidemic of abuse in the US, and it could be heading down under.

President Trump announced in a tweet this week that congressman Tom Marino, nominated to lead the National Office of Drug Control Policy, would be withdrawing his name for consideration as drug czar. 

This follows an investigative report by the Washington Post and 60 minutes about his role in recent changes to drug laws that has made it more difficult for the DEA, the drug enforcement administration to fight the opioid epidemic.  

Meanwhile here in NZ, based on figures supplied to This Way Up from the Ministry of Health, it appears opioid prescriptions have increased by 11% over the last 5 years, and a decision will be made by Medsafe shortly on whether common over-the-counter painkillers will become prescription-only.

This would be in line with recent changes to the way painkillers are controlled in Australia. 

Kate Aubusson, health editor at The Sydney Morning Herald and Nick Miroff from the Washington Post speak with Simon Morton.

Related:

This Way Up: Codeine