Dr Nick Tupper column: When legal pills become dangerous

Medicines can be dangerous if too many are taken
Medicines can be dangerous if too many are taken

Today is International Overdose Day, an annual event to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related death.

NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group and Doncaster Council are supporting it with a campaign to highlight the dangers of behaviour that could lead to an accidental overdose.

Last year, 160 people were admitted to Doncaster Royal Infirmary after accidentally overdosing, often after mixing medication like strong painkillers and anti-depressants after with alcohol.

As well as the physical and emotional trauma to those involved and their families, the cost to the NHS in Doncaster of treating those people was around £200,000.

Alcohol and strong medication don’t mix and they can be a lethal combination.

The campaign features the real life experiences of a Doncaster man called ‘Tom’, who took more prescription drugs than he was prescribed. He describes how he thought it was ok to take more than was stated on the pack, saying that when he had a headache he would take three tablets at a time rather than two.

On one occasion he accidentally overdosed and had a heart attack after taking between 12 and 15 tablets within just four hours.

He’s still alive to tell his tale but there could have been a tragic outcome. He now advises everyone not to take any more medication than stated.

There are also risks to people who recreationally use’legal highs’ and this issue is being tackled in Doncaster.

Earlier this year an NHS service,Project 3, went out with police in Doncaster town centre to raise awareness of risks associated with legal highs and signpost them to where they can get help.

There has been a steady increase in the use of legal highs in the town. Young people who use them can contact Project 3 on 01302 640032. Drop-in sessions are held at East Laith Gate House, on East Laith Gate, Doncaster, every: Monday 11am - 6pm; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 11am -5pm; Friday 11am - 4.30pm; and Saturday 10am – 3pm. There’s a separate service for the over 18s which operates from Rosslyn House, Thorne Road, Doncaster every: Monday and Thursday 11am – 7pm; and Tuesday Wednesday and Friday 11am – 5pm. Alternatively ring 01302 730956 for advice and information.

There is also a family support group for those living with people using drugs and alcohol - including legal highs – which operates every Monday at 6.45pm. Support is also available through www.drughub.co.uk.

Doncaster’s pharmacists will also be supporting the campaign by highlighting the dangers of mixing alcohol with strong medication and of the need to stick to the stated dosage.