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30,000: Hooked On Everyday Painkillers


Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 30,000: Hooked On Everyday Painkillers

Astounding new, and equally astounding figures, what on earth is going on? Over 30,000 are addicted to painkillers in this Country according to a report by Daniel Martin of the Mail (21 01 09). MP’s have warned that there is a crisis.

The drugs mentioned are that of codeine and more fundamentally, middle-aged women are the most at risk.

Staggeringly, it has been suggested that some women are taking over 70 pills a day. Liver dysfunction, stomach disorders, gallstones, constipation and depression will inevitably be what these women will face as a direct consequence.

Indeed the all-party Parliamentary drugs misuse group have argued that the Internet has significantly made the purchase of bulk supplies far easier, Solpadeine and Nurofen Plus are on the list of easy accessibility.

Notwithstanding, the group has also indicated that GP’s were unaware of the extent of the problems and addicts were thus not given the correct levels of support.

Moreover, what is also at issue was the fact that the group believe GP’s were also prescribing Valium and Mogadon and sedatives too easily. It has been suggested that 1.5 million are addicted to these drugs.

Some factual information is now relevant for clarity. These ‘benzodiazepine’ drugs are supposed to be taken for four-week periods only, yet some GP’s keep patients on them for years.

Furthermore, it has been argued that dependence on sedatives may make patients experience more anxiety when going through the withdrawal process. Inevitably this may lead to the scenario of panic attacks, sweating or even diarrhoea.

According to the chairman of the drugs group and MP for Bolton South-East, Dr Brian Iddon who states We have received evidence from individuals and support groups about the extremely distressing effects of dependency to, or withdrawal from, a range of over-the-counter or prescription-only drugs.

In addition, he says, This issue cannot be ignored any longer. We must establish the scale of the problem and provide proper diagnosis and treatment for those affected.’

Over-count, an online support group reveals it’s figures, 16,000 requests have been made with regards to those seeking help in relation to over the counter medicines. Notably, it puts the total number of addicts in excess of 30,000.

Solpadeine and Nurofen Plus were the most commonly misused products according to a recent survey. Followed by co-codamol, Syndol and Feminax.

In terms of gender issue, the findings indicate that females were more addicted than their male counterparts. It has also been suggested that drugs over the internet were a more popular method of purchase for females as less questions had to be answered.

Stronger regulation is essential according to the MP’s in relation to internet pharmacies and for GP pharmacists to receive better training in spotting warning sign in addicts.

Indeed Sheila Kelly, of the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, which represents manufacturers of over-the-counter medicines, said the industry would carefully consider the recommendations in the MPs’ report. She would also discuss steps to minimise risk of addiction without penalising users of codeine.

To illustrate the dangers of these drugs, it is pertinent to offer a case study, so one may evaluate some of the consequences.

Nurofen plus was Mel Smith’s nemesis, used in his ongoing battle with gout. Indeed, the comedian admitted to taking inexcess of fifty tablets per day.

As a direct result of his addiction he had to attend A+E because of a trip. It was found that he had stomach ulcers. Actually, he was very lucky to be alive as he exceeded the recommended daily dose times eight.

Smith says, ‘It was my dark secret and I got deeply depressed, like an alcoholic hiding his bottles, I started hiding my Nurofen tablets in the backs of drawers, behind books on bookshelves and slipped them between scripts.

‘They wreaked havoc with my insides, eating into my stomach wall.’

He has beaten his addiction and says he is lucky to be alive.

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