Back in the Spotlight: BBC Panorama’s “Hooked on Painkillers”
“When it comes to opioids the dangers of physical dependance are well known. So why are doctors now handing out more than 22 millons presciption a year?”Declan Lawn in Panorama’s “Hooked on Painkillers”
Did you happen to watch BBC Panorama last night? In their latest episode BBC reporter Declan Lawn met with chronic pain patients and also GPs and specialists in a well-balanced discussion over the rise of prescription painkiller usage by patients dealing with long term pain.
Amongst others, Dr Cathy Stannard (Consultant in Pain Medicine at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol) and Dr Martin Johnson (Royal College of GPs) spoke candidly about the research into the growingly controversial area. Bringing Opioids and chronic pain back in to the media spotlight, this programme follows only 6 weeks after the launch of the Opioid Painkiller Addiction Awareness Day (OPAAD) on the 22nd September, and highlights the need for further research into the area itself; so that everyone is made aware of the difference between effective and non-effective Opioid referral.
“One of the things is we have to be aware of is when to say no and when to try and bring in other resources. We are not saying no enough at the moment because GPs like to help their patients.”Dr Martin Johnson
Both Cathy and Martin have been involved in multiple Airing Pain programmes since 2010; including the discussion over the difference between Opioid addiction and dependency.
Know the Difference (Dr Stannard, AP21 – 2011)
- Dependence: you have been on the drug for a long time; you can’t stop it suddenly because you will feel quite unwell with withdrawal effects. And what that means is that we would take somebody off opioid drugs very slowly, to avoid withdrawal effects and dependence is a normal expected effect for anybody taking this class of drugs.
- Addiction: much more of a behavioural thing, which is to do with the way that patients take drugs and the features of addiction are craving, continued use despite harm, behaviours focused towards drug seeking and inability to control drug use.
You can listen to all of the podcasts that both Martin and Cathy have been involved in by simply typing in their names in our search bar. Alternatively, click the links below for our programme’s focussing on Opioids.
In Airing Pain Programme 21: Opioids and managing pain in remote areas
Paul Evans talks to Jackie Milburn, Dr John Macleod and also Dr Cathy Stannard, outlining the use and misuse of opioids in chronic pain management. Dr Stannard points out that whilst opioids are a useful analgesic for some people, they can have a detrimental effect on others due to their strong side effects. She emphasises the need for healthcare professionals to be aware of how to use opioids effectively as a pain management resource.
In Airing Pain Programme 54: Opioids, memories and prison healthcare
Paul speaks to Dr Cathy Stannard, Dr Rajesh Munglani and Dr Ian Brew about healthcare within prisons. Stannard reveals some problems in this area, saying that some medicines are a tradable commodity in prisons and that often prisoners’ account of pain are treated with mistrust. She reports that the situation is improving, as the healthcare needs assessment that prisoners receive when they arrive in prison now includes a section on pain, alongside the original sections on substance misuse and psychiatric disorders.
My view is that opioids probably are currently over-prescribed. I think there is a poor recognition with opioid drugs that they may not always be effective for persistent pain and there is a strange way that these drugs are prescribed compared to other drugs. Many patients will have the experience that they will go to their doctor and they will be given an opioid drug and if it doesn’t work, they will be given a bigger dose and a bigger dose and actually one of the things we are trying to encourage in terms of guiding prescribers is to think of opioids like any other painkiller and if it’s going to work, it will work in a sensible dose and once a prescriber has to start escalating a dose, to get an effect, one should start wondering whether that really is the most effective tool for treating that particular pain.”Dr Cathy Stannard
Pain Concern’s helpline is also listed on the Panorama “Information and Support” page for the episode and we’re here to help you manage your pain. Please also consider reading our leaflets on managing medications and watching our self-management videos.