Donna Mangles shared story of her son’s addiction

By Liz Mellino

Jamie Michael Anderson was just 29 years old when he died from a drug overdose.

The Numurkah local was addicted to illicit drugs and prescription medication for 13 years, with his family left to pick up the pieces as their lives slowly fell apart.

‘‘We spent the last 13 years going through programs, detoxing, trying to get him well, trying to be more educated because we didn’t know anything about addiction and what to do,’’ Jamie’s mother Donna Mangles said.

‘‘We’re a normal family, as normal as one can be ... it affected our whole lives, it affected our whole family.’’

Jamie began experimenting with party drugs when he was 17 and his addiction progressively got worse as the years went on.

‘‘His preferred choice of drug was heroin so with that prescription medicine was something that he was drawn to, he would heat it up and inject it,’’ Ms Mangles said.

Ms Mangles said as her son’s addiction grew, so too did his struggle with mental health.

She said they spent many years seeking help from doctors, hospitals and recognised specialists, however many said they were unable to help until he was abstinent.

‘‘The combination of the two, we were constantly told that they couldn’t help him until he stopped using and he was clean, however there was very little opportunity that was happening,’’ Ms Mangles said.

‘‘There was always a point in time that he was using so we never got the opportunity and we got sent away so many times.’’

While illicit drug use is often more publicised, Ms Mangles stressed the importance of recognising legal drugs and the effect they can have on a person and their body.

She said her son learned ‘‘to doctor shop’’, becoming an ‘‘expert manipulator’’ in explaining to GPs how he wanted to feel.

‘‘The drugs that don’t often get the recognition they deserve are the legal drugs, the prescription medicine such as Valium and opioids — my son has had them all sadly, abusing the prescriptions provided,’’ Ms Mangles said.

Ms Mangles shared her story of heartbreak on Thursday night at GOTAFE in a community discussion addressing the rise in prescription medication harm.

Community members from all walks of life gathered to hear from general practitioners, specialists and people with personal stories to encourage debate about strategies and ways to reduce medication harms.

Run by not-for-profit organisation ScriptWise, the evening centred around the upcoming implementation of Victoria’s real-time prescription monitoring system, SafeScript.

SafeScript is a tool that provides health professionals with access to prescription histories for certain high-risk pain and sedative medications to enable safer clinical decisions.

The system came online in Western Victoria in October and in two months identified almost 3300 patients at risk of harm or overdose from visiting multiple clinics or pharmacies.

Goulburn Valley Health addiction medicine specialist, Prof Ed Ogden said the evening was an opportunity to have a community debate about the nature of the problem and the addition of SafeScript.

‘‘General practitioners and pharmacists can check in real time whether people have previously had a prescription for concerning substances and whether it is appropriate to give a script,’’ Prof Ogden said.

‘‘There’s no question it is going to save lives and it is going to help some people come to terms with the fact they have a problem that they perhaps have been trying to deny or not face.’’

If you are concerned about your medication use, speak with the health professional who’s prescribing your medication, or call the SafeScript Pharmaceutical Helpline on 1800737233.