'Overdose can happen to anyone': Sister's heartache
PARAPLEGIC and fighting for his life, Jon Raggam spent two years in hospital only to die weeks after his release to a toxic cocktail of prescription medicine.
The then 52-year-old wasn't aware he was overdosing, nor were the medical professionals, carers or his sister, Jasmin Raggam.
Jasmin now channels her heartbreak to support others, and is among a collective rallying state and territory leaders to implement mandatory real-time prescription monitoring to avoid preventable deaths such as her brother's.
Jon died in 2014 during a period when drug-related overdose deaths were on the rise across Australia, and most dramatically on the Sunshine Coast with 178 deaths in 2012-2016, 102 more than the previous decade.
Jasmin explained Jon took his medication as prescribed by his GP, and died from accidental overdose three days later from mixed drug toxicity caused by the interaction between the opioid painkiller and an anti-depressant prescribed for nerve pain.
"The interaction propelled the effects of both meds to a toxic level," she said.
Jasmin said the latest National Overdose Report figures were "heartbreaking" and "shocking", and she stressed the victims are people, not just a number.
She will hold the Purple Hearts Vigil for International Overdose Awareness Day 2018 at Cotton Tree park on Friday, August 31 in honour of those lost to overdose.
Hand-written letters from loved ones will be displayed on purple hearts at the event, which welcomes anyone who wishes to show their support, learn and share their story.
Jasmin said Tasmiania and Victoria have already implemented real-time prescription monitoring, which she said would give doctors the ability to monitor their patients at all times and realise if they are developing a dependency.
Since a 1980 Royal Commission into drugs recommended a national data-base be implemented, dozens of coronial inquiries have supported the move which would also make it harder for people to access dangerous quantities of addictive prescription drugs.
"(Overdose and dependency) can happen to anyone at any time, from something as simple as having a wisdom tooth out, a back injury," Jasmin said.
"It's an easy trap to fall into.
Jon's passing remains a painful memory for Jasmin, who said she last saw her brother in a body bag.
She said lifting the stigma associated with drug-related death and injury was paramount, and remembers her brother most for his "zest for life" even after the four-metre fall which left him a paraplegic.
Though Jon's life had changed, Jasmin said, it wasn't necessarily for the worst and the "ordinary Aussie bloke" still had a lot of life to live.
PURPLE HEARTS VIGIL
- Purple Hearts Remembrance Vigil at Cotton Tree Beach
- From 11am to 1pm to raise awareness of drug-related death and overdose
- Open to anyone who wishes to listen, learn and share their story and memories of loved ones