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This week the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has announced that all opioid medicines in the UK will carry prominent warnings on their labels saying they can cause addiction.

With this, the facts and figures rolling out about The US’s 2020 Opiate Crisis and public hearsay. We’re are sure you are wondering what the big deal about opiates in particular, currently, is. Keep reading to inform yourself about the dangers of opioids, what they are and what top professionals are saying.

BBC News reported on the Health Secretary’s announcement and UK figures relating to his decision.

Opioid painkillers ‘must carry prominent warnings’

All opioid medicines in the UK will carry prominent warnings on their labels saying they can cause addiction, the health secretary has announced.

Matt Hancock acted after figures in England and Wales revealed a-more-than 60% increase in prescriptions for opioid painkillers in the last decade.

People needed protection “from the darker side to painkillers,” he said.

Health experts welcomed the move, saying opioids can cause “life-altering and sometimes fatal addictions”.

Opioids, such as morphine or fentanyl, are derived from opium and can be highly effective for managing severe pain but they can also be highly addictive, the Department of Health (DoH) said.

It warned the number of prescriptions in England and Wales issued for these sorts of medicines had risen dramatically from more than 14 million in 2008 to 23 million last year.

The DoH added there are also some opioids available over the counter, such as codeine-based painkillers, which are weaker in strength but can also cause addiction.

From 2008 to 2018, the number of codeine-related deaths in England and Wales has more than doubled to more than 150, it said. In Scotland, codeine-related deaths spiked at 43 in 2016, dropping to 27 in 2017, National Records of Scotland said. In Northern Ireland, there were 16 codeine-related deaths in 2017.

You can read the full BBC report here.

So you might be asking yourself, what are opioids?

Opioids, sometimes called narcotics, are medications prescribed to treat persistent or severe pain. They are often prescribed to people with chronic headaches and backaches, by patients recovering from surgery or experiencing severe pain associated with cancer, and by adults and children who have gotten hurt playing sports or who have been seriously injured in falls, auto accidents or other incidents.

They are:

  • A large group of drugs used mainly to treat pain
  • Includes naturally occurring chemicals like morphine and codeine, as well as synthetic drugs
  • Codeine, morphine and methadone are among opioids judged by the World Health Organization as essential for treatment of pain and end-of-life care
  • Some opioid medications – methadone and buprenorphine – are used to help people break their addictions to stronger opioids like heroin

It’s not just the UK, issues with the increased use of opioids (or opiates) can be seen globally. James Matthews wrote:

Opioid crisis driven by ‘inappropriate prescription’ of painkillers to surgery patients

Clinicians prescribe higher levels of opioids in response to pain, which can lead to more pain and further use.

Inappropriate prescriptions were found to be a substantial contributor to the opioid crisis

A new study shows that a growing opioid crisis is being driven partly by the amount of strong painkillers being given, wrongly, to surgery patients.

The use of prescription opioids more than doubled worldwide between 2001 and 2013. Researchers who conducted the global study found that an increased reliance on strong opioids was associated with a rising epidemic of their misuse and overdose-related deaths. The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, concluded that 10% of patients experienced chronic pain following surgery. Clinicians often prescribe higher levels of opioids which can lead to increased pain and increased opioid use.

The inappropriate prescription of opioids was found to be a substantial contributor to the opioid crisis.

You can read the full article here.

The ‘“2020 opiate crisis” in the US is well documented. In 2017,Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis in the US a “national public health emergency”.

CNN published a report of easy to read facts about this at the beginning of April:

Opioid Crisis Fast Facts

Experts say the United States is in the throes of an opioid epidemic, as more than two million Americans have become dependent on or abused prescription pain pills and street drugs.

Opioids are drugs formulated to replicate the pain-reducing properties of opium. They include both legal painkillers like morphine, oxycodone, or hydrocodone prescribed by doctors for acute or chronic pain, as well as illegal drugs like heroin or illicitly made fentanyl. The word “opioid” is derived from the word “opium.”

During 2017, there were more than 72,000 overdose deaths in the United States, including 49,068 that involved an opioid, according to a provisional CDC count. More than 130 people died every day from opioid-related drug overdoses in 2016 and 2017, according to the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).

The number of opioid prescriptions dispensed by doctors steadily increased from 112 million prescriptions in 1992 to a peak of 282 million in 2012, according to the market research firm IMS Health. The number of prescriptions dispensed has since declined, falling to 236 million in 2016. The number dropped 10.2% in 2017 from 2016, according to IQVIA (formerly IMS Health).

You can find out more on this here.
The risk of addiction with opioids is staggering. Do you think this new stand the government is taking is enough to divert the growing numbers of issues with prescription opiates or not? Let us know through our FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

If you are concerned about a friend, member or yourself whether it is in reference to a possible opioid addiction, or any substance abuse problem or behavioural addiction than please contact us. We are available 24/7.

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