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Awareness campaign launched to combat prescription medicine abuse


The Health and Social Care Board and the Public Health Agency have launched a Safe Medicines campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of misusing prescription medication.

It’s estimated that the misuse of prescription medication such as Tramadol, Diazepam and antidepressants was responsible for 27 times more deaths than illicit drugs such as cocaine in 2015*.

Joe Brogan, Head of Pharmacy, Health and Social Care Board said, “We have one of the highest rates of deaths in Northern Ireland as a result of prescription medicine abuse.  We want people to understand that while prescription medicine can be beneficial when prescribed correctly, it can cause serious harm and, sadly, as we have seen recently, death when misused, abused or mixed with other drugs or alcohol.”

The campaign will be predominantly a social media campaign, targeting not just young people but also parents to raise greater awareness among all in the community about the dangers of misusing medicine.

The public are reminded that the correct way to use medicine is to:

  1. Ensure that you have been assessed and your doctor or healthcare professional has prescribed it for you.
  2. Do not share your medicine with friends or family.
  3. Take medication as prescribed and do not take more than the recommended dosage.
  4. Do not mix prescription medicine with other medicine without checking with your doctor.
  5. Do not take medicine with alcohol.
  6. Do not buy medicine from unauthorised sources such as over the internet or on the street

The PHA’s Drugs and Alcohol lead Michael Owen said: “Drug misuse can have fatal consequences, therefore the PHA strongly recommends that you do not take any drug unless it has been prescribed to you by a medical professional, and according to dosage instructions.

“Mixing prescription medication with other drugs, or with alcohol, is dangerous – different substances interact in hugely different ways in the body, which can range from causing no side effects to creating highly toxic reactions. The best way to avoid any risk is to not take any drug that has not been prescribed to you and to stay within the alcohol limits.”

If you think you might have a problem with alcohol and/or drugs or you are concerned about a loved one and would like to get help please visit www.drugsandalcoholni.inffor information on support services near you.