The Opioid Timebomb



There was an extensive article in the Evening Standard this week about the opium epidemic in England and Wales. I found it informative but it left me with questions and fears that we are repeating the same old cycle, where individuals are misusing drugs that are being prescribed to them by a professional.


There were some frightening statistics. Take these four for example: “Use of painkillers up by 80% in 10 years” “In 90% of cases the drugs don’t work” “Opioid poisoning deaths in England and Wales has risen from 1290 in 2012 to 2038 in 2016” and “admissions to private detox centres are up 30% in 2 years”.


  • If the use of painkillers has risen so high, why are they still being prescribed so readily? Maybe an individual may not be aware of the dangers of painkillers, but with all that is known about prescription drugs and over-the-counter medication, surely it has to be the responsibility of the professional to use these only as a last resort. Front line services must also be aware of the effects of long-term prescription opioid use, and construct their services to reach out to those who use them problematically.


  • If, as stated 90% of these drugs are not working, then why are they being used? The article stated that some opioids create 100 times more endorphins than the body naturally would. Imagine how enjoyable that may feel? No wonder people would want to return to this feeling on a daily basis! Anything that creates a barrier from the external world can be attractive, as people have been doing for years, it’s called a “High”! Drug services have been working with this dynamic with clients for years, yet may fail to see that their skills are transferable.


  • The poisoning deaths from opioids have risen and one of the many contributory factors is the budget cuts to services. Some boroughs are stating 30% to 40% cuts making it unrealistic to expect the same quality of service, and seriously impacting issues such as waiting times for treatment including detox or rehab. Individual borough services being tendered on a regular basis can destabilise the treatment system and see many drug users fall through it.


  • If the use of painkillers is up by 80%, why are those who use them not visible in services? There has been an increase in opioid dependency but that is not reflected in the client numbers in services. Is this because those who use prescription drugs don’t think they have a problem or, are they engaging in the private sector where a variety of treatments and solutions are available? If this problem is to be addressed perhaps we need to develop a range of options and make them available to those who are seeking help.


If you or a loved one is experiencing difficulties with Opioids, feel free to call my helpline. I am available 7 days a week to discuss your concern


Christopher Robin

Managing Director


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