‘Treating addicts’ on PA2018 agenda

This year’s Pharmacy Assistant National Conference (PA2018) will for the first time include a session on harm minimisation.

The aim is to reduce the stigma among pharmacy assistants of treating addicts. Former Pharmacy Guild National Councillor and Australian Pharmacist of the Year, Angelo Pricolo (right), has identified stigma as a problem in pharmacy.

“Access to doctors and pharmacists willing to provide the service, in addition to affordability, are the two biggest barriers to treatment for people with a pattern of hazardous opioid drug use,” he said.

To help reduce this stigma, Mr Pricolo will facilitate the screening at PA2018 of a documentary he produced in 2008 called ‘Fighting the Dragon with Luck’. It explores addiction and treatment in the Australian setting.

One of its stars, former WHO doctor and Australia’s leading addiction specialist, Dr David Jacka, will also be presenting in the session.

When Mr Pricolo first introduced methadone at his pharmacy, he says he had little resistance from his staff. However, he said a more common response is the kind of comment made by a senior retail manager at a community pharmacy: “If we start dispensing methadone, you know I’ll leave.”

The three elements of stigma

“Stigma consists of three elements: ignorance, prejudice and discrimination,” Mr Pricolo said. “Discrimination against the stigmatised group can affect access to services, the prospects of getting a job, and can lead to verbal and physical abuse.”

This opinion is shared by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He called for treatment and counselling for drug addicts during the launch of the 2011 World Drug Report at the UN headquarters in New York.

“Drug-dependent people should not be treated with discrimination; they should be treated by medical experts and counsellors,” he said. “Drug addiction is a disease, not a crime.”

The PA Conference is taking place on October 25-27 at Sea World Resort on the Gold Coast. For further details on the program topics, visit www.pharmacyassistants.com.