Gransnet forums


Addiction to painkillers.

(54 Posts)
Greatnan Sun 15-Sep-13 09:15:03

I know very well how insidious the slide into addiction can be. Of course some people need strong pain relief, but there are other options available.

Brendawymms Sun 15-Sep-13 10:09:31

This article seems to infer that this is new information but has been around for at least twenty years to my knowledge. To cut down and come off the addictive pain medication can take one month for each year. Some medication is almost impossible to come off but is still prescribed because it does a good job in the right circumstances.

Grannyknot Sun 15-Sep-13 11:39:32

'Addiction to medicine' has been around for a long time. I was watching a bit of "The Carpenters" (movie) on telly the other night and the siblings' mother dishes out Quaaludes to her son when he can't sleep due to all the touring. He objects, and she responds, "But they're not drugs, they're prescribed medication". Yeah, right. And they were just one of the drugs that killed Elvis Presley and I'm sure many others. Many of the side effects of some drugs were swept under the carpet, diazepam (Valium) being another one. There is an advert for Ativan from the 1980s that says "Doctors knows best" and it took I think another decade or two for it to sink in that they too produce dependence. Bit like smoking really.

Treating chronic pain is another whole ball game, and I do believe that many, many people are discharged from hospital with a painkiller habit. And it is a slow and drawn out process to come off them, once the patient realises and acknowledges their addiction anyway. Difficult question.

thatbags Sun 15-Sep-13 11:55:37

"Treating chronic pain is another whole new ball game". Indeed. And not everyone gets addicted. In fact, I suspect it is a small minority. That's not to say addiction to prescription drugs isn't a problem, but I think the DM, as usual, is blowing it out of proportion with one extreme example.

thatbags Sun 15-Sep-13 11:57:47

Chronic pain causes serious problems too, including depression. Not in my case, fortunately, but I can quite understand how it could and does.

Greatnan Sun 15-Sep-13 12:00:50

No, of course not everybody who has to take painkillers over a long period becomes addicted, but the consequences for those who do are awful and withdrawal is very difficult. I am not suggesting that painkillers should not be available over the counter, but just that anybody needing to take them should read about the symptoms, causes, effects and treatment of addiction to them.
Pharmacists are supposed to sell no more than a packet of 24 (I think) at a time, but there is nothing to stop an addict going round all the pharmacists in an area, or going back every day, or getting somebody else to 'source' for them.

Grannyknot Sun 15-Sep-13 12:10:33

Greatnan I'm sorry to say there are loopholes that permit purchase for many prescription medications online, e.g. Solpadeine is available on Amazon in any quantity you want.

Bags true, not everyone becomes addicted and it is a minority who do. But it is a rising problem in the UK and a huge problem in the US - I think prescription med overdose have killed more people than illicit drugs in some American States.

thatbags Sun 15-Sep-13 12:12:34

The article seems really to be about doctors not recognising addiction even when it becomes obvious to them that the patient is taking more than is wise of the prescribed drug. My GP would not authorise a new prescription before the appointed time for the repeat. Why do some GPs carry on writing prescrips when they must know there is, or as least there is potentially, a problem? That, to my mind, is the issue here.

thatbags Sun 15-Sep-13 12:14:16

People kill themselves smoking or overindulging in alcohol consumption as well. It just takes longer.

Grannyknot Sun 15-Sep-13 12:17:39

thatbags re your 12:34 post, you are 100% correct.

Greatnan Sun 15-Sep-13 12:18:02

I think I have posted often about my horror of smoking and I am certainly not promoting abuse of alcohol. However, I can't see why that has any bearing on the abuse of painkillers.

thatbags Sun 15-Sep-13 12:19:45

Addiction is the connection, greatnan. Nicotine and alcohol are addictive drugs.

thatbags Sun 15-Sep-13 12:20:55

But, as I said, the problem highlighted in the DM article is GPs writing prescrips when, apparently, they shouldn't.

thatbags Sun 15-Sep-13 12:23:02

Everyone knows addiction to drugs can be a problem. GPs, it seems to me, should be more aware of the problem than others. So does this problem of repeat prescrips arise because the GPs don't care, because they think their patient's addiction is less of a problem that the alternative, ot because they don't have the time or resources to help people overcome addiction?

It could be a combination of all three.

Greatnan Sun 15-Sep-13 12:37:18

Yes, bags, I was aware that there are other addictions!
Unfortunately, many people are not aware that painkillers can be addictive, or are not sufficiently aware to notice the symptoms.
I don't see why the existence of other addictions should make us want to close our eyes to this one.
You have personal experience of having to take painkillers and you have not become addicted. You know that I have had a different experience. I merely want to alert people to the possibility of addiction.
I would like codeine to be removed from over-the-counter painkillers, and I would like doctors to be more vigilant when prescribing them.

janeainsworth Sun 15-Sep-13 12:57:06

All drugs have side effects and there has to be a balance between risk, of which addiction is one, and benefit.

As Bags says, it is the management of the condition by the GP and the patient that is relevant, rather than the drug itself, and this is no easy task.

NICE has just issued new draft guidelines about the use of paracetamol in the management of osteo-arthritis. They are concerned that "higher doses of paracetamol could lead to multiple adverse effects, including heart, kidney and intestinal problems, and recommended GPs only prescribe the “lowest effective dose” for the “shortest possible time"," although the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency maintain that there is no new evidence which would change the risk-benefit ratio.

If the draft guidelines are passed, this will present a real dilemma for GPs who are caring for patients with moderate to severe pain, and who are contractually obliged to follow NICE guidelines. The choice seems to be stronger but potentially addictive drugs, or tea and sympathy.

thatbags Sun 15-Sep-13 13:05:23

I wasn't suggesting that anyone close their eyes to the problem. I was trying to highlight what I actually see the problem raised in the article to be. Some people actually choose a lifestyle that will increase their chances of becoming addicted to something while they are fully aware that there is an addiction risk. That is all I was saying, and no amount of legislation to protect them from themselves will change that.

This, I feel, is a quite different problem from the one highlighted in the article. I thought the two issues were becoming mixed in some of the posts.

Jendurham Sun 15-Sep-13 13:51:06

My husband was in pain for 15 years. He was on a morphine drip at one time, then given morphine based painkillers.
He had the problem that they made him constipated, which was another problem as he was doubly incontinent. So he decided not to take painkillers and was sent to a pain clinic, where he discovered that a painkiller based on capsicum worked better for him. That took about ten years to find out. When we moved to Durham, he was told that they would not give him that, but they would give him opioids and antidepressants.
When I was in hospital in April, I was on morphine and given Codeine, and Tramadol, to bring home, both of which are addictive, and cause constipation. As I am not supposed to strain when I go to the toilet, that is obviously ridiculous, so I stopped taking them. I was also given a repeat prescription of 200 paracetamol!
I put up with pain at the moment, telling myself that it's there for a reason, to make sure I do not do too much and end up back in hospital.

Does this happen to everyone who is addicted to painkillers? Do they then have to take loads of senna as well?

Galen Sun 15-Sep-13 13:54:14

What appals me is the number of people I see who are prescribed long term benzodiazepines. They are very addictive, but a large number of people seem to be on them either for anxiety and panic attacks, or muscle spasm!
The mind boggles!

Greatnan Sun 15-Sep-13 13:59:53

In my daughter's case - yes! As well as paranoid delusions from long term use of codeine, panic attacks, mood swings, bizarre decisions. She was also given tramadol in hospital following a botched operation. As with most addictive substances, the relief or euphoria conferred by one pill soon becomes insufficient and more and more are needed just to stay 'normal'.
Sleeping pills are another potential source of dangerous addiction.
There are things that pain clinics can suggest if addiction might be a problem, such as TENS machines, massage, meditation or 'natural' remedies.

thatbags Sun 15-Sep-13 14:09:38

I've been taking codeine for years (since the predecessor of co-codamol 30/500, co-proxamol, was banned because people were deliberately overdosing on it and dying). The constipation problem is easy to solve by eating more fruit and veg, especially prunes, capsicum peppers, and orange juice. Cabbage is pretty good too. And lentils.

Just by the by, co-codamol 10/500 is supposed to be the equivalent of co-proxamol. In my experience it isn't.

I think it's important to say that codeine can be addictive if you are not careful, not simply that it is addictive. I am not addicted to it.

jeni, you might find this article interesting:

Nelliemoser Sun 15-Sep-13 14:22:33

I usually try to only take one paracetamol and one co-codamol at night because of the codeine induced constipation. Using paracetamol as needed.

Greatnan Sun 15-Sep-13 14:25:54

Fentanyl patches are supposed to deliver a measured dose over a period of time, but several people died because they were chewing them to get a 'high'.
Taking the amount of codeine prescribed by your doctor is fine for most people, if they have not had previous addictions and don't attempt to top it up by the small amounts found in Neurofen Plus and Paramol.
One problem is that many people are experiencing other problems, apart from pain, when they first start on prescription pain-killers and the relief from depression and/or anxiety is very seductive.

Galen Sun 15-Sep-13 14:36:04

I just use paracetamol at night, in the day only when the pain is unbearable. I do have amytryptolline at night occasionally, but I don't like the side effects, so I just suffer!
Thatbags a very interesting article,

Galen Sun 15-Sep-13 14:37:46

I agree about the co-codamol, I find it useless the old coproxamol was very good!