Durban – Raising awareness about different health issues, especially mental health, is a passion for Durban writer, Glynis Horning, who has won Galliova Health Writer of the Year for the second consecutive year.
Horning, who was named the 2020 winner at the 31st annual Galliova Awards virtual event last Friday, said this week that in this year of lockdown and Covid-19, “it was really like a ray of light, of confirmation and encouragement in these dark times when everyone, especially journalists who work in print, is struggling to stay productively employed and hoping as never before to make a difference in a small way.”
The Galliova Awards focus on South Africa’s most outstanding food and health writers for both online and print, with the new Digital Food Influencer category this year.
Horning – a prolific writer with work published in numerous magazines – was judged on a body of work for the competition, including two powerful stories which appeared in Fair Lady magazine and focused on the dangers and potential addiction of OTC (over the counter) medications.
Such medications are most commonly either what are known as “3 in 1s” which consist of aspirin, paracetamol and caffeine; or opiates, especially those containing codeine, found in common painkillers and cough
Horning said this year’s lockdown had added new layers of stress to many people’s lives and that OTC medications were widely regarded as safe.
According to research, codeine is effectively converted to morphine when swallowed and tends to give a sense of euphoria and well-being.
“You are at home and feeling stressed, so you self-medicate. It’s so easy when you are battling with issues. You are looking for anything to make you feel a bit better, and these pills do. But then you need more and more,” said Horning, adding that this also resulted in suppressing the body’s natural endorphins which are released to reduce pain, so the knock-on effect is more pain.
Doctors and specialists she interviewed estimated that OTC painkiller abuse is higher than cannabis and cocaine and equivalent to alcohol abuse. While those addicted to OTCs have spoken about taking up to 20 tablets a day, sometimes mixing and matching different medications, dependency starts when you are taking more than 8 to 12 tablets a month.
An average dosage of 6 to 8 tablets a day indicates addiction.
Horning stressed the importance of reading and adhering to the directions contained in the packaging with the medication.
“You need to understand what the risks are and if you take the medication as directed, you will be fine,” she said.
South Africa is one of the few countries left in the world where opiates are sold over the counter, although regulations were introduced in 2016 to reduce the size of packages sold and pharmacies also have to record such sales.
To highlight the hidden dangers in 3 in 1s and opiates, Horning said: “Perhaps there should also be infographics and pictograms in the directions leaflet making it easier to understand, while the print on the box must be legible and not in tiny type.”
This is Horning’s second consecutive win at the Galliova Awards; she also won in 2017 and was runner-up in 2018.
Last year’s awards evening came on the heels of the loss of her much-loved older son, Spencer, 25, who had battled major depression and anxiety.
Although shaking with emotion and nerves, Horning gathered her courage and went up to the stage at the awards in Stellenbosch to share her family’s overwhelming sense of loss.
This week’s awards were online.
She said: “Health and mental health writing is my passion and if I can just make a difference to one person, it’s worth it.”
Her body of work also included stories on depression and anxiety, gender-based violence, and keeping healthy during Covid-19.
The Galliova Awards are sponsored by the South African Poultry Association (Sapa) whose chairperson, Aziz Sulliman, said: “Despite 2020 being a really challenging year for us all, Sapa wanted to continue to show our appreciation for the country’s media by continuing to sponsor the Galliova Awards.”
The Independent on Saturday