Could you be addicted to your pain medication?

31 October 2017

Aucklanders who know or feel they have an addiction to over-the-counter or prescription pain medication are being invited to take part in a University of Auckland study.

Over-the-counter and prescription painkillers might seem less harmful than illegal drugs, but for a growing number of people they are becoming an addiction they struggle to overcome.

University of Auckland PhD Candidate Carina Walters is conducting her PhD at the School of Pharmacy in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences on prescription and over –the-counter opioid dependence.

She is seeking to interview Aucklanders who are taking an opioid medication such as morphine, codeine, oxycodone, fentanyl, methadone, DHC, pethidine, tramadol, Nurofen Plus® or Panadeine® regularly and have found it difficult to stop.

She needs 20 volunteers for her study. All have to be Auckland based, and over the age of 18. All participants will have their details kept strictly confidential.

“I understand it’s a difficult thing for people to talk about. People sometimes don’t even tell their families that they’re taking these medications says Carina. “They can be assured of confidentiality.”

Carina, who is a trained pharmacist, says people who are addicted to these medicines often have to get them by ‘shopping around’ numerous pharmacies and doctors, adding to the stress of the addiction and secrecy.

“People don’t realise it’s an accidental problem. They don’t realise that that they can develop problems with these medicines and they often don’t know where to turn for help.

“We literally know very little about this group of people and why they don’t seek help from services.

“We need to understand how their problem developed and understand their stories; if we can understand their stories then we might be able to understand how to prevent and best help them overcome their problems with these medicines.”

If you can answer yes to all of the questions below, you may be eligible to take part in the study:

  • Do you live in Auckland, New Zealand?
  • Do you think you may have developed addiction to an opioid pain medication?
  • Are you aged 18 years or over?
  • Can you speak English well?
  • Did your regular use of opioids start through being prescribed opioid medication or purchasing over-the-counter opioid medications?

If you choose to contact Carina, she will ask you some questions to find out whether you are likely to have opioid pain medication addiction. If you are eligible for the study, at that point you can choose to think further about whether you want to be involved in the study, or decide you do not want to be involved. In fact you can choose not to be involved at any time.

In recognition of the time and costs to attend the interviews, participants will receive a $40 MTA or Westfield voucher at the completion of each interview.

People who would like to be considered can contact Carina in confidence here.

Phone: 09 923 9129 Mobile: 021 024 99710


Or visit the study website

The study has the approval of the NZ Health and Disability Ethics Committee.