Australians are increasingly using prescription or over-the-counter painkillers to ease emotional, rather than physical, pain. Our cultural understanding of pain is changing, and as a result it’s becoming more difficult to distinguish intoxication from relief.
In my recently published book A Fine Line: Painkillers and Pleasure in the Age of Anxiety, interviewees who used painkillers non-medically said they did so mainly to ease forms of suffering they acknowledge may not be medically defined as pain. Yet they experienced them as “painful”.
The US is currently going through what many term an “opioid epidemic”, while more than 1,000 Australians died of an opioid overdose in 2016, with 76% of these deaths related to prescription opioids. Recently, the ABC reported that the high-dose opioid patch fentanyl has fuelled an opioid dependence crisis in regional Australia.