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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved the use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamine (MDMA), commonly known as Ecstasy, in a major clinical trial into its effectiveness in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (1). It is proposed that MDMA will be used in controlled psychotherapy sessions to assist the patient “to confront their trauma, either by remembering it or re-experiencing the event”. Whilst MDMA is known to produce feelings of euphoria and cause users to become more alert and affectionate, it can also cause serious side effects such as nausea, accelerated heart rate, high blood pressure, confusion and in some cases, even death (2).

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has announced that from February 2018 medications containing codeine currently available over the counter (OTC) at pharmacies will require a prescription(1). Codeine is a painkiller in the opiate class of drugs. It is found in low doses in combination with other drugs such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine in medications such as Nurofen Plus, Panadeine and some cold and flu formulations. In Australia these medications are currently available in pharmacies without a prescription and there were a total of 21.6 million packs of these drugs purchased in 2015 (2). This large and unrestricted use of a potentially harmful medication has caused considerable concern to health professionals and has led to a review by the TGA.

It is a common misconception that illicit drug use, in particular ice, is confined to the unemployed or blue collar workers and that they are easily detected by their appearance and actions.  A recent case brought before the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) found that a doctor in the St Vincent’s Hospital Emergency department “attended work on many occasions between June 2012 and April 2013 under the influence of drugs including ice and cocaine”1.  If a professional can go undetected, surrounded by other health professionals, then it is highly unlikely illicit drug users will be detected by their appearance alone in any workplace.

The Christmas and New Year period is a great time of year, often with many parties, family gatherings and work functions. It can also be a time of excess, especially when it comes to alcohol (1). Here are some tips to help you play it safe.
If you are entertaining, make sure there are water jugs and non-alcoholic alternatives to alcohol.
Keeping your alcohol BAC under 0.05 can be quite a challenge.
Remember: 1) Eat before and while you are drinking, 2) Alternate your drinks with water or a non-alcoholic drink,  3) Keep count of how many standard drinks you have

Recent reports (1) have identified the re-emergence in Australia of a new and dangerous drug, alpha-PVP, commonly known as Flakka, Gravel or Bath Salts. This is the latest in a rapidly growing number of synthetic or New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) (2) that have been introduced into the Australian market in recent years.
Although it is a schedule 9 drug, it appears to have re-entered the street drug market and has been detected in a number of workers. (1)

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