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Airing Pain 123: Opioids and Chronic Pain

Rethink­ing long-term pain management

This edi­tion of Air­ing Pain has been sup­port­ed with a grant from Kyowa Kirin donat­ed for this purpose. 

The opi­oid cri­sis reached its peak in the Unit­ed States in 2017, where addic­tion and over­pre­scrip­tion have led to 218,000 deaths from pre­scrip­tion over­dos­es between the years of 1999 and 2017. The side effects of opi­oids can affect the day-to-day activ­i­ties of peo­ple man­ag­ing long-term or chron­ic pain, yet soci­ety as a whole has yet to ful­ly eval­u­ate the rela­tion­ship between opi­oids and addic­tion.  

In this edi­tion of Air­ing Pain, pro­duc­er Paul Evans talks to two lead­ing pain spe­cial­ists. First off, Paul Evans meets with Dr Srini­vasa Raja, who dis­cuss­es opi­oids effects on the body’s opi­oid recep­tors and how the human body process­es pain. Dr Cathy Stan­nard then talks about the increase of opi­oid pre­scrip­tions in the UK and how the opi­oid cri­sis in the Unit­ed King­dom devel­oped. 

In the sec­ond half of the pro­grammePaul speaks with Louise Trew­ern, a chron­ic pain patient and patient advo­cateabout opi­oids detri­men­tal effect on her qual­i­ty of life and how she was able to tran­si­tion towards more effec­tive meth­ods of chron­ic pain man­age­ment. 

Final­ly, Paul sits down with Dr Jim Hud­dy, a GP in Corn­wall, who explains how the med­ical com­mu­ni­ty is re-eval­u­at­ing the rela­tion­ship between opi­oids and chron­ic pain. 

Issues cov­ered in this pro­gramme include: Can­cer, chemother­a­py, exer­cise, fibromyal­gia, med­ica­tion, neu­ro­path­ic pain, opi­oids, painkillers, phys­io­ther­a­py, pre­scrip­tion for pain, psy­chol­o­gy, side effects and dosage.


  • Dr Srini­vasa Raja, Pro­fes­sor of Anaes­the­si­ol­o­gy and Crit­i­cal Care Med­i­cine and Neu­rol­o­gy at the Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine, Mary­land, USA  
  • Dr Cathy Stan­nard, Con­sul­tant in Pain Med­i­cine and Pain Trans­for­ma­tion Pro­gramme Clin­i­cal Lead for NHS Glouces­ter­shire Clin­i­cal Com­mis­sion­ing Group 
  • Louise Trew­ern, Vice Chair of the Patient Voice Com­mit­tee at the British Pain Soci­ety 
  • Dr Jim Hud­dy, Corn­wall GP and Clin­i­cal Lead for Chron­ic Pain at NHS Ker­now Clin­i­cal Com­mis­sion­ing Group. 

More infor­ma­tion:

With thanks to:

  • The British Pain Soci­ety (BPS), who facil­i­tat­ed the inter­views at their Annu­al Sci­en­tif­ic Meet­ing in 2019 —
  • The Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion for the Study of Pain (IASP)


Kirsty Kay-Russell

May I ask please why you did­n’t have any­one on the show for whom opi­ods have been of ben­e­fit? This is an incred­i­bly impor­tant point to pro­vide both sides of an argument.

I have to ask the ques­tions- was this lady’s pain severe?
What was caus­ing her pain? In all the so called ‘evi­dence’ it states that a minor­i­ty of patients DO gain pain relief over the said amount. These drugs have not been tak­en off the mar­ket, they are still licensed for use on long term non can­cer pain. The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny had to do many more strin­gent tests/trials than the one that has caused many peo­ple to suf­fer unnec­es­sar­i­ly. What hap­pened to patient choice? Sure­ly we are the experts on our own pain lev­els and what. does/doesn’t work?.

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