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90 days is all it takes to be addicted to prescription opioids

GP’s blamed for taking ‘sticky-plaster’ approach.

The Public Health England review into Prescribed medicines has revealed that prescribing opioid pain medicines for longer than 90 days was associated with opioid overdose and dependence, and that patients are not being offered any non-medical treatment options other than these extremely potent and addictive pills to solve their problems.

Unfortunately, the report also highlights that patients felt they weren’t informed of the risks the medication brought to them and that they didn’t acknowledge or recognize withdrawal symptoms.

Addiction treatment experts at UKAT suggest that GP’s are issuing more and more pill prescriptions as a ‘quick fix’ because of a lack of time and willingness to delve into patient’s problems;

“What today’s report shows us is that we’re a nation crying out for help, and unfortunately we’re just being given plasters in the form of pills to solve our problems. Repeat prescriptions for over 30 months is outrageous and incredibly dangerous because if the patient is still in pain after 30-plus months of being on a prescription opiate, then that drug is simply not working.

“The patient is most likely to have developed a tolerance to the drug and it is not providing the pain relief it is being prescribed for, and this is what causes the physical and psychological addiction.

“These figures suggest to me that GP’s are stretched and overwhelmed and need better support and investment to be able to offer alternative treatment therapies like talking therapy, yoga, exercise, diet, and acupuncture to better tackle their patients problems, instead of simply issuing a repeat prescription” suggests UKAT’s Group Treatment Lead, Nuno Albuquerque.

The fall out of today’s report is very real. UKAT has seen a stark rise in the number of people they’re treating for prescription drug addiction. In just 3 years, admissions have risen by 45%, and in 2018, almost 10% of all patients who checked into UKAT’s rehabs were treated for ‘legal’ prescription drug addictions, stemming initially from GP’s.

Nicki Hari, a former prescription drug addict, knows only too well how difficult it is to come to terms with being an addict;

“I always thought an addict was someone shooting up heroin, not me. But I was taking a cocktail of prescription meds every day because my body and my mind were telling me I had to. I’d completely lost the power of choice, I had to take those pills. They turned me into a zombie and it got to the point where I had no idea why I was even taking them in the first place, but I couldn’t stop.

“Every time I saw my GP, the amount of pills I took every day or the kind of pills was never questioned. I was never offered anything else, other than a repeat prescription. I had 10 minutes to get what I needed, and I always did, for nearly 25 years.”

UKAT are calling for three major changes to take place to avoid the UK’s prescription drug addiction spiralling further out of control;

  1. Patients requiring pain relief to be offered a non-opioid option in the first instance
  2. Before a GP re-prescribes the same prescription, alternative treatment therapies are explored and discussed
  3. GP’s IT systems are updated to ensure that over-prescription is identified and justified
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