LONDON – Today marks the second annual Opioid Painkiller Addiction Awareness Day (OPAAD) which was established to raise awareness about the risks associated with opioids including the very real risk of addiction.  In the United States, there is an epidemic of opioid painkiller abuse, which has led to an explosion of heroin use and overdose deaths reaching over 47,000 people in 2014.  In the U.K., deaths involving opioid painkillers increased 45% to 760 between 2012 and 2014 while deaths involving heroin and/or morphine increased by almost two-thirds from 579 to 952 over the same period.  These thousands of deaths can potentially be prevented if all stakeholders come together to raise awareness about this important issue and set up programmes to push for screening, identification and treatment of people who are misusing or addicted to their painkillers.

“I know from experience that addiction to painkillers is a serious issue that can ruin lives and families,” noted Cathryn Kemp, founder of P.A.I.N, and bestselling author of Painkiller Addict: From Wreckage to Redemption which details her life and death struggle with an addiction to prescribed fentanyl, a strong opioid painkiller, that developed after she contracted pancreatitis.   “We see patients addicted to opioid painkillers every week in our pain and addiction services” added Dr. Yasir Abbasi, Clinical Director for Addiction services at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, who is a founding Trustee of P.A.I.N.

“NHS England and Public Health England have been aware of this issue for several years but little has been done to date,” added Jason C. Foster, another P.A.I.N trustee who has over 10 years of experience dealing with painkiller addiction in the U.S. and U.K.  “Unfortunately, there are a lot of similarities in the U.K. now to the U.S. 10 years ago.”

P.A.I.N urges the government to make Opioid Analgesic Dependency (OAD) a top priority issue in order to prevent what has happened in the U.S. from happening here in the U.K.

Two steps should be taken right away:

  • Pharmacies, CCGs, drug manufacturers and advocacy groups should ban together to raise awareness about the risks associated with the use/misuse of opioid painkillers
  • Local authorities must set up specific treatment pathways for people addicted to opioid painkillers in primary care as existing substance misuse treatment services are not fit for purpose for this patient group

For more information about the Painkiller Addiction Information Network and the issue of addiction to medicines please visit our website at www.painkillerfree.co.uk, or speak to Cathryn Kemp on 07816 780159.