health

"My son overdosed on painkillers at 34 years old."

If I had been told in the past that one day, I would be writing a story about my family’s experience with addiction, I wouldn’t have believed it. We were a normal, happy family, living the dream in rural Victoria.

Our lives changed forever in 1994. That was the year our son Simon, who was 18 at the time was involved in a single car accident. He sustained life threatening injuries which required a lengthy stay in hospital, followed by many operations to improve his way of life. He was given opiates and benzodiazepines to help him cope with the pain.

In the end, however, it would be those very medications that would prove to be the biggest problem for Simon. Addiction knows no bounds. You may be a professional, a tradie, a mum or a dad, even a grandparent or a neighbour. You may be rich or poor. Addiction is not selective but it is selfish, and if left untreated it will, as Simon used to say, take away your soul and even your will to live.

Simon and Margaret when he was a child. Image supplied.

For the next 16 years our family lived the roller coaster life of addiction. There is little or no relief, only when the addict seeks help or goes into a rehab, but even then there is never any peace of mind. Simon died of an overdose of pharmaceutical medications in 2010. He was 34.

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. It's an opportunity for us to remember and grieve for those loved ones who have died, to acknowledge those still suffering from the disease of addiction and to make them feel valued and wanted. We also want to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death.

As a society, we owe it to these people to treat them with dignity, to offer information, education and support wherever possible, to them & their families. To that end I applaud the work being done by ScriptWise. We must give them HOPE for a drug free future.

Simon was always a community minded person, helping others. We have now become his voice, and share his story to prevent others experiencing what we have suffered on the journey of addiction. Our work alongside ScriptWise campaigning for the implementation of a real-time prescription monitoring (RTPM) system is gaining momentum.

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Simon and his beautiful daughter, Maddie. Image supplied.

We hope real-time prescription monitoring will not only stop ‘doctor shopping’, which contributed to Simon’s untimely death, but also provide doctors with a complete picture of a patient’s medical history, so informed & appropriate treatments will follow. We also need more treatment facilities for drug users, that will stop a path way to jail and rehabilitate those who need it most.

There is now, a greater awareness of the hidden dangers of some medications balanced with the benefits we all receive when we use them as prescribed. Due to greater publicity and education, doctors are now more vigilant when prescribing all medications - particularly those with addictive qualities.

To those still suffering the dreadful disease of addiction, know you are loved and valued. Your battle is winnable and we are here to help you.

"Simon did not want to die." Image supplied.

Simon didn’t want to die, nor did Heath Ledger, Prince or countless others; in the end it was an accident. Despite trying and succeeding many times, sustained recovery was hard for him. He was powerless over his addiction, even though he had every reason to live. He had a little girl whom he loved dearly, and he had us, a loving, supportive family.

It's been six years since Simon died, and it never gets any easier. Days like today remind me of what we lost to drugs. I still miss the warmth of Simon’s smile, his caring manner, his sense of humour, the smell of his favourite after shave. But mostly, I miss his love. He was a real person and is sadly missed by many, especially us, his family. We all must do better.

If you or someone you love has become dependent on painkillers, discuss it with your doctor or seek advice from https://www.turntohelp.com.au/

Tags: children , current-affairs
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