A nasal injection containing the overdose-reversing drug naloxone is seen at the police headquarters in Quincy
A nasal injection containing the overdose-reversing drug naloxone is seen at the police headquarters in Quincy, Massachusetts, June 13, 2014. REUTERS

South Sydney Rabbitohs players Dylan Walker and Aaron Gray were left hospitalised on Tuesday Sept. 22 after suffering from a suspected overdose of prescription drugs. The duo was prescribed painkillers, following a post-season surgery that took place recently.

Walker and Gray were found vomiting in their Gray's Sydney apartment on Tuesday morning. Early investigations into their condition suggest that Walker had been prescribed tramadol and oxycodone, the opioid-based medication commonly used to treat pain.

Oxycodone was once used to treat pain associated with cancer. However, recent records show that it is now being widely used for the treatment of acute and chronic non-cancer pain as well. According to the experts, the expansion in the number of oxycodone prescription has increased five-fold in the last 10 years.

With oxycodone becoming one of the rapidly rising opioid-based painkillers, cases of its abuse have also escalated dramatically. Oxycodone is now one of the most abused prescription drug, with experts fearing over a surge in the number of deaths due to its overdose.

"Often people feel that they're safe because they're prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a pharmacy. But the more these medications are used in the community, the more we tend to see people developing addictions," said researcher Suzanne Nielsen of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales.

Nielson added that when it comes to the number of opioid-related deaths, prescription painkillers have surpassed heroine in its overuse. Opioids have serious side effects if not taken correctly, and it must be carefully dealt with.

The number of Australians under treatment for codeine and oxycodone addiction has also trebled since 2002. The drug's overuse has been associated with the deaths of a number of people, including celebrities Heath Ledger, who died in 2008, and the 2009 departure of DJ Adam Goldstein.

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