Yesterday marked Opioid Painkiller Addiction Awareness Day (OPAAD) with many media outlets covering the story, as seen on the BBC, ITV and an active campaign on Twitter.
In an article produced by the CPPC on the same day (22nd September 2016), the CPPC drew attention to statistics released last year at the launch of OPAAD, which revealed 1 in 6 UK adults were concerned with the amount of opioid painkillers they were taking. The CPPC has been working closely with a number of Parliamentarians, including Lord Luce and John Cryer MP, to help drive forward awareness raising and campaigning for an annual pain assessment/pain medication review of chronic pain patients in Primary Care or other care settings, who are routinely prescribed opioid based pain relief.
The CPPC and other organisations believe this would improve not only the patients’ pain treatment but also the emerging issues associated with prescribed opioid addiction. There is anecdotal evidence that only a small minority of people living with chronic pain (a recognised long-term condition in its own right, and element of other long-term conditions) are currently offered a care plan to be reviewed annually.
With this in mind, a new survey organised by Tonic Life Communications on behalf of Indivior UK Limited, has estimated that 2 out 5 people in the UK do not follow national guidelines that suggest adults should restrict the use of opioid painkillers due to risk of addiction. The results further highlight that 64% of respondents have taken commonly available painkillers, but worryingly over half of them are unaware that these drugs contain potentially addictive opioids. The implications of these results, which suggest a severe lack of awareness amongst the UK public as to the potential dangers of Opioid Painkiller Dependency (OPD), are compounded by the fact that 41% of British adults surveyed would not recognise the signs and symptoms of addiction.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that over-the-counter opioid-based painkillers should not be taken for more than three consecutive days, but these statistic reveal that not only have 40% of adults taken opioids for more than three days, but 41% of those that have would not recognise the signs and symptoms of addiction.
Opioid Painkiller Dependency (OPD) has been linked to an increased risk of various physical and mental health conditions, causing damage to health in the long-term, as well as increasing the risk of death.
An annual check for patients precribed strong opioids that the CPPC and its Parliamentary Champions are campaigning for would help the 335,000 British adults that are estimated to be at risk of opioid addiction and potentially help reduce the rate of prescriptions for these painkillers, which doubled between 2003-2013.
For more information opioid painkillers, please refer to Opioids Aware, an online resource by the Faculty of Pain Medicine, for patients and healthcare professionals to support prescribing of opioid medicines for pain.
This article was written by Jake Botham.
Jake graduated from the University of Leicester with a BA in International Relations and History in the summer of 2016. He has previously worked for a number of Labour MP’s, in both constituency and Westminster offices. Jake is currently undertaking work experience at PolicyConnect, joining the Health Team and has been supporting the work of the Chronic Pain Policy Coalition.