Cornwall news Curse of painkiller addiction is costing lives in Cornwall UK news

PremierLeague-News.Com - Cornwall - Prescription drugs can have a devastating effect on people's lives if not taken correctly

Cornwall news Curse of painkiller addiction is costing lives in Cornwall UK news

PremierLeague-News.Com - Cornwall - Prescription drugs can have a devastating effect on people's lives if not taken correctly

Cornwall news  Curse of painkiller addiction is costing lives in Cornwall UK news
21 February 2021 - 05:15

PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! "Just because it's prescribed by your doctor doesn't mean it's safe". That's the message from Sid Willett, Cornwall's drug-related death prevention coordinator. Over the last two weeks CornwallLive has reported on six inquests where the cause of death was drug-related. Lisa-Marie Mahoney, aged 27, and her unborn child tragically died after she took too many painkillers. She had a history of lower back pain and had been taking opiate medication for a considerable period of time. Meanwhile, she had been supplementing those drugs, with over the counter medication. Her family tried to raise the issue with her but Lisa-Marie, from Camborne, sadly refused to listen, she was addicted to painkillers. She believed she had been taking the tablets for so long that she needed to take more for them to have any effect on her. You can read more about that here. You can stay up-to-date on the top news near you with CornwallLive's FREE newsletters – find out more about our range of daily and weekly bulletins and sign up here or enter your email address at the top of the page Katie Corrigan, a former nurse from St Erth died aged 38 also died after taking a prescription drug. She started taking codeine to help deal with neck problems, but she quickly became addicted to the painkiller. She found a loophole at her local surgery which meant she was able to request repeat prescriptions early. Meanwhile, she used her mentor's details to forge prescriptions and haul pain killing medication. Her addiction caused problems in her life and sadly she died last year. You can read more about that here. The other four drug-related deaths involved men aged under 50 from Cornwall. Three of them died from taking too many prescription drugs, whilst one died from taking heroin combined with a strong benzodiazepine banned in the UK. You can read more about that here. It's a topic not talked about enough with lots of rumours and misconceptions. But prescription drugs can have a devastating effect on people's lives if not taken correctly. How painkillers work and why people become addicted to them Dr Keith Mitchell works at the pain clinic in Royal Cornwall Hospital. He said: "These recent tragic deaths are a reminder of the danger of the drugs referred to as 'weak opioids' - principally tramadol and codeine. "Like their stronger cousins - morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl - they are addictive, and are more likely to do more harm than good if used continuously long-term. "Taken in sufficient numbers, they are fatal. If taken in combination with other sedatives, such as alcohol, pregabalin, gabapentin and benzodiazepines, they can be fatal at much lower doses. "They can kill in ways other than 'death by overdose' by substantially increasing the risk of accidents, particularly falls and road accidents. "A road accident may result in the death or serious injury of people other than the sedated driver, such as passengers and pedestrians." Dr Mitchell said another problem with painkillers, in particular opioids, is that they provide a tempting means of escape at times of desperation and hopelessness. He also helped to explain how painkillers work and how and why people can become addicted to them, along with the difficulties of drug withdrawal. Dr Mitchell said there are two types of pain people experience - short term, acute pain and long term persistent pain (also known as chronic pain). Opioids are good for managing acute pain, but less helpful for chronic pain. And opioids become less effective if they're taken for more than a couple of days and their ability to combat pain will be reduced. Meanwhile, opioids are effective at tackling pain associated with injury, like an accident or an operation, the sort of pain which is expected to heal. Dr Mitchell said beliefs around opioid medication have changed since the late 1990s. He explained: "Back then, there was a general belief in my profession that opioid drugs were more effective and less harmful than had previously been thought. "This turned out to be a huge mistake. "The result is that there are a lot of people taking a lot of opioids that are doing them harm. "These are addictive medications - reducing the dosage can result in very unpleasant side effects including a temporary increase in pain." He said a lot of work has been done in Cornwall in recent years to tackle the issue and doctors are becoming less inclined to offer long-term opioids and encouraging people to look at alternatives, including natural, non-drug approaches, for example, social prescribing, massages, distraction and mindfulness. Dr Mitchell explained as you increase the dosage of opioids, the risk increases and the benefit reduces. There is a certain dosage of opioid where the risk becomes so high and the benefit so low, it's highly inappropriate for a doctor to prescribe the medication. Dr Mitchell said high dose prescribing in Cornwall used to be considerably more common than elsewhere in the UK, but it has recently come down to about the UK average, which has itself reduced. He also explained the problem of drug withdrawal. He said: "For most types of painkiller, if you reduce the dose, you will experience drug withdrawal. This is likely to include an increase in your pain. "It's a mistake to think this means that the drug is effective and you're better off taking it. "The increased pain that you thought were signs of the drug's benefit may actually be signs of drug withdrawal." Dr Mitchell said in an ideal world, the doctor and patient will come together after a couple of months of taking a new painkiller to review whether to keep taking it. They ask questions including what are the perceived benefits? What are the side effects and the long term dangers? Is it providing sufficient benefit to justify the harm? Dr Mitchell said unless the answer to those questions is that things have definitely improved you should be stopping the painkiller and trying something else. He said in the real world, these discussions often don't happen. When asked why this was he said there are lots of reasons, for example, GPs may simply not make the appointment for reviews, or drugs may be started in hospital and it isn't made clear to the GP whether and when it should be stopped or reviewed. "It definitely isn't the case that just because it's from a doctor it's safe" Sid Willett, is the drug-related death prevention coordinator for Cornwall. He often attends inquests on behalf of the Cornwall Council to see if there is any learning to be taken away from the tragic deaths. Mr Willett said it's never usually one drug which has caused a death. He said: "It might not be overtly that the drug you've been given from your GP is the one that's taken your life, but it might be in combination with others.

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. "So it's not like we can say it's one particular medicine you should avoid, like a plague doctor, it's the misuse and overuse of them, that's the problem." Mr Willett said people often don't realise what they're doing when they take different drugs together or one drug to excess. He said: "There are cases where people have overtaxed their liver by taking too much paracetamol without suicidal intent, but pain being the big thing, they've taken one too many and you've got a chain reaction of events where your liver is struggling." Mr Willett said we need to get out of the old fashioned thinking that if you can get it from your doctor it's safe. He said: "You can get heroin from a doctor, as in diamorphine, which is 100 percent therapeutic grade heroin, if you think of street heroin, it's cut with a whole manner of things and the purity can be wide ranging, very low at times. If you get a pharmaceutical drug you know exactly what's on the label. "It definitely isn't the case that just because it's from a doctor it's safe. "We have been to inquests in the past where people have sourced drugs on that pretense, that because a relative got medication for pain, someone else can take it." Mr Willett added: "You can't rely on your mum to give you advice about pain, it's got to be your doctor." Mr Willett echoed Dr Mitchell's comments about the opioid threshold. He added: "There's a threshold with opioid prescribing so above a certain limit you're not going to get any more benefit from it. "You're just going to do yourself harm. And even if you go up to that limit, it's for a period of time that should be ascertained by a physician rather than self medicating. "The idea is not to keep you on medicine for life, perhaps if you've got a long-term condition that can't be reversed, but pain generally can. "It's getting to the bottom of why you've got pain, is it psychosomatic pain (trauma)? is it actually physical pain? or is it now the drugs that are causing the pain?" The stigma around drug addiction still exists Mr Willett said there's still a stigma around drug addiction. He said: "If someone is dependent on pain treatment from their doctor why are they different from someone on a park bench that has nothing and is trying to skull around their life trying to get some brown powder for the day to inject? "People like putting things in boxes all the times, and part of our job is breaking down those myths and busting them, because if people are affected by the stigma then they might not approach people about treatment because they feel ashamed of themselves. Then they think what's the point of being here, so they become depressed and you're in suicidal territory - ‘I've got pain, now I'm embarrassed by so and so, now my heads gone down, now I need antidepressant medication’ - then you've got the possibility of drugs interacting with each other, there's a whole new level to unpick and it's really complicated." What are the signs to look out for? Although they vary depending on the substance being abused, here are five common indications that a co-worker could be suffering from addiction ... Erratic behaviour and unpredictable mood swings – an individual may be happy and full of energy one minute, and then lethargic, depressed and irritable the next. He or she may also lose interest in activities and hobbies they’ve previously enjoyed, or become socially withdrawn and isolated. Poor timekeeping and absenteeism – consistently turning up to work late and constantly taking time off could both be signs that something is wrong. Particularly if there is a pattern for such occurrences taking place following the weekend or a stretch of annual leave. Work-related performance issues – an inability to carry out basic tasks efficiently or effectively and an overall deterioration in the quality and quantity of work being completed. Personal hygiene – neglecting cleanliness and grooming. Turning up looking dishevelled and unkempt. Injuries and other physical changes – unexplained injuries, shaking, incoherent speech, bloodshot eyes and frequent nosebleeds are all possible signs a person may be abusing drugs or alcohol. Mr Willett said prescription painkillers can lead people to take harder drugs He said: "People can overuse medicines as a result of street drugs, but it can also be the other way around. "So they can become dependent on codeine for example and their prescription is cut off because the doctor is worried about it or it's reduced but their pain or issues and why they think they need opioids continues, so they step into the world of illicit street drugs like heroin." Mr Willett said: "If I was given codeine by my doctor let's say for headaches or whatever, that's legal. "But if I was to give you tablets then it becomes illegal, so there's a grey line, when people think of illicit drugs they naturally think of heroin or crack cocaine that sort of stuff, but equally stuff which are considered to be medicines can be sourced from street dealers." Mr Willett said people also don't always realise that alcohol is a depressant. He explained: "People think because people get lairy at parties or on the street alcohol is a stimulant but it's actually quite a heavy depressant, so when you combine that with drugs, it's a double whammy." Mr Willett added: "I'm sick and tired of people saying people died of a drug-related death because of their own excess and they have their own problems. "Yes they do have problems but everyone has problems, you've seen it at a selection of inquests, there are people who are hardworking, who have kids and families, some don’t have criminal records. "A lot of it is how you deal with life, we will all know people who die, there's going to be car crashes, mortgage failures, it depends what you do to get through it and we all deal with things differently." Mr Willett said there are now people selling prescription drugs on the streets illicitly. He said: "That's why just saying ‘don't do it’ or banning anything or putting all the dealers away, it just doesn't work, if the market is there and issues like pain are there, for example emotional trauma, people will want to try and get away from it somehow so will want to use something." Covid expected to have contributed towards drug deaths In 2019, the number of drug-related deaths in Cornwall was 31, up by three on the previous year. Mr Willett said the data for 2020 will be released later this year and the number of drug-related deaths are expected to increase again. Mr Willett said: "You will see that generally, for a number of years, the numbers have been going up. "So we will be releasing the figures later on in the year, but we can agree that they’re going up. "Inevitably there will be a Covid factor around this and that will be for a number of reasons, people being isolated, people not getting enough access to their GP perhaps." Mr Willett is encouraging people to contact We Are With You if they've been affected by any of the issues raised in the article. He said: "We Are With You is the first port of call for drug and alcohol problems in Cornwall, not just for people who have problems themselves, but equally family members who are worried." We Are With You, formerly Addaction, provides a free and confidential service without judgement to young people and adults experiencing issues with drugs, alcohol or mental health right across Cornwall. Visit www.wearewithyou.org.uk to find your nearest service. You may also wish to seek advice from your GP, who can advise you about your medication intake. You can stay up-to-date on the top news near you with CornwallLive's FREE newsletters – find out more about our range of daily and weekly bulletins and sign up here or enter your email address at the top of the page.

Source = PremierLeague-News.Com - Cornwall

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