11 March 2019

Opioid Addiction in Britain – the Truth about Addictive Prescription Drugs

UKAT have contributed to a Sunday Times investigation into opioid addiction in Britain, which has highlighted the scale of opioid prescribing in Britain. Addictive prescription drugs (including co-codamol, codeine, dihydrocodeine, tramadol and fentanyl) are connected to widespread opioid addiction, overdose, hospitalisation and deaths.

Published in February 2019, Sunday Times journalists found that opioids are prescribed four times more in the north of England than in London. Three times as many people die in northern England than London, as a result of taking addictive prescription drugs.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, UKAT CEO and Founder Eytan Alexander called on GPs to make urgent changes to their opioid prescribing practices. He said: “GPs must accept responsibility for consistent overprescribing. A rate of 79 packs per minute is just not acceptable. It is vital that alternatives to medication are provided for the management of patients with long-term pain, a condition for which we know opioids have little place.”

Opioid Addiction in Britain – “Are We Sleepwalking Towards Carnage in our Communities?”

The Sunday Times investigation into addictive prescription drugs and opioid addiction found that:

  • More than 113,000 opioid prescriptions are now dispensed by GPs every day, mostly to patients at home rather than in hospital settings.
  • Around 2,000 fatalities every year are connected to opioid painkillers, up by 41% from a decade ago.
  • 4 in 5 heroin users start out on prescription painkillers.
  • Blackpool has the highest level of opioid prescribing in the country – 10% of its patient population take opioids (17,000 people).
  • The death rate from opioids in the northeast is 6 per 100,000 people. The national average is 3 per 100,000 people.
  • Swansea has the highest opioid death rate in England and Wales – 16 per 100,000 people.
  • Areas with higher levels of deprivation and greater numbers of older people have higher rates of opioid prescribing.

Pain Management and Addictive Prescription Drugs

For short-term pain management, opioids can be effective. Patients benefit from strong painkillers after serious accidents and operations. Women in labour are frequently prescribed opioids to manage pain. Palliative care often involves opioid prescribing, to ease suffering when people have life-threatening or terminal illnesses.

For chronic pain, opioids do not work for the majority of people who take them. Long-term opioid use typically decreases the quality of life, leads to debilitating side effects and can result in addiction. Opioid withdrawal is often extremely painful,
physically and mentally. Withdrawal symptoms include flu-like symptoms, mood swings, moderate to severe pain, nausea and vomiting, insomnia and more.

You can read more here about opioid prescribing for chronic pain in the UK. This blog post explains why UKAT will continue to raise awareness about the dangers of strong opioids.

Effective Treatment for Opioid Addiction in Britain

At UKAT, we believe the most effective treatment for opioid addiction is abstinence-based detox and rehab. Our addiction treatment centres across the country provide intensive programmes, using a wide range of addiction treatment models and therapeutic techniques.

We start from the premise that addiction recovery is possible for everyone, no matter how long you’ve been using or what has happened during your addiction. Treating opioid addiction usually involves safe detoxification, to help you withdraw
safely from physical dependence to addictive prescription drugs or street opioids. Our rehabilitation programmes focus intensively on uncovering the reasons why you’re addicted, rather than what or how much you use.

If you’re suffering from opioid addiction, including long-term dependence on addictive prescription drugs, please call our helpline today. We’ll assess your situation and explain the options for addiction treatment with UKAT.

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