The Problem of Opioid Painkiller Addiction
When you think of people addicted to opium you may think of the illicit drug heroin. However, just as many prescription painkillers and even over-the-counter painkillers contain opium, heroin is far from the only problem.
Often when people start out on painkillers they may not realise that it is in fact opium-based or, though aware of it, are following the doctor's recommendations and don't think further on it—until it is too late and the addiction has fully set in.
Here in the UK, the problem is starting to reach crisis proportions. Here are some statistic from Opioid painkiller dependency - An overview: a report written for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prescribed Medicine Dependency by Harry Shapiro (Drug Information and Policy Analyst).
- In 2012, some ten million people in the UK were prescribed an opioid painkiller, more than double the next nearest EU country, which is France at four million.
- In 2013, the UK had the highest sales of morphine and opiates like codeine, by volume, than any other country in the EU.
- In 2011, Northern Ireland had the highest annual prevalence of prescription opioid use in the world.
- Just in England, the number of opioid prescriptions rose from around 3 million in 1991 to 23 million by 2014.
The problem of prescription drug addiction has not been spoken of extensively, but these statistics give some idea of the prevalence of opium drug use in our society.
One of the reasons we in the UK are starting to particularly worry about these statistics is we have the USA to look at as an example of what happens when it gets to epidemic proportions. Looking at overdose and mortality figures in the US is quite startling. The figures in the UK are nothing as dramatic but worrying trends can be seen.
- In the USA in 2010 there were 16,500 deaths from opium painkillers. This is more than double the figure from 2002 and more than twice the number of deaths caused by cocaine and heroin combined!
- In the UK in 2013 there were 757 deaths from opium painkillers, which is a 30% rise from 2012.
Here is a more specific example using the opiate painkiller Tramadol here in the UK.
- In 1996 only one death from Tramadol, in 2011 that had risen to 154 and by 2014 it had reached 240.
So, you can see why now is the time that we have to do something about it. There are variations in who you see addicted to these opiate painkillers. One is the respectable working family man/woman who is following the GP instructions as a handling against some chronic pain. The second are those using it for recreational purposes.
There are a few important factors that need to be looked into here.
- The quantity of prescriptions being given out.
- Whether or not opium-based drugs should be able to be bought over the counter.
- What other solutions are out there to help people looking to these drugs as the answer.
- How to help those already addicted.
Some Ideas of What You Can Do About it Directly
- Start increasing awareness of this problem. Do things like circulating this article and other related pieces, talking to your friends and family about it is a good start. If you want to do more you can try things like getting your local community centres together or working with a local newspaper to get it known about.
- Start a petition calling for stricter guidelines on over-the-counter medication and prescriptions.
- Or, if you know people within the industry, then try to make some changes directly there.
Drugs are always used as a solution for some unwanted life condition, whether chronic pain or for recreational purposes—maybe even boredom or stress. If you know anyone in this situation but not yet addicted, help them to look at what other solutions there are. For pain, maybe some alternative remedies. For boredom or stress, maybe help them look at what lifestyle changes can be made so that life itself can be more enjoyable without drugs as the solution.
If you know someone already addicted then look for a good drug rehabilitation centre. I am writing from Narconon which is a drug rehabilitation centre you can check out here: narcononuk.org.uk
It is time that opium painkillers are widely known for what they truly are, and the devastating affects that addiction from them can cause.