Drink and Drugs News DDN September 2019 | Page 10

Pain management A PRESCRI FOR PAIN Paul was prescribed OxyContin after an industrial injury. But that was just the start of his problems M y name is Paul. I’m 51 and live in a small market town in the Peak District. I enjoyed a happy childhood and walked straight into a full-time job after school. At 18 I joined a local concrete manufacturing company and spent around ten years hand stacking very heavy paving slabs. One morning at work I injured my back. This was in the days where awareness around health and safety issues was far lower than today, and I had some physio and returned to work a few days later. Over the following years I was promoted many times, but continually experienced problems with severe, debilitating lower back and neck pain. Around ten years ago I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease after MRI scans showed damage to five discs in my back and two in my neck, all believed to be caused by the heavy manual job I did for years. Numerous injections at the pain clinic offered no relief and I was eventually prescribed OxyContin. Each time I visited the doctor the 10 | drinkanddrugsnews | September 2019 dosage was increased as it was no longer giving me any pain relief, until I was eventually prescribed 800mg per day – but taking 1,500mg per day. I would wake up around 2am then spend the rest of the night thinking of excuses for how I could collect my prescription early. OxyContin was the last thing I thought about at night and the first thing in the morning. At this point, I was no longer taking this amount of OxyContin to relieve the pain – I was taking it simply in order to function. I realised I had a serious problem. One tablet was supposed to last a full 12 hours – I was taking my dose every couple of hours. However I kept telling myself I couldn't possibly be an addict, as I had been prescribed this by my doctor. There were times when I would run out because my GP was on holiday and the locum or other doctors refused to prescribe such a high amount. I would then suffer full-blown withdrawal until I could pick up my next prescription. Around this time I was involved in a car accident. While lying in the hospital bed the nurse asked me if I was taking any medication. When I told her 800mg of OxyContin per day, but actually almost double that, she said, ‘You must mean 80mg.’ I replied no, and my partner confirmed the amount. I got another, better-paid job but was still taking around 1,500mg per day and was eventually let go. Sitting at home wondering what I was going to do, I started to replay things in my mind – what if that car accident was actually my fault due to the amount of OxyContin I was taking? What if I believed I was doing a good job but actually wasn't and that’s why they let me go? I decided I’d had enough and wanted my life back. I made an urgent appointment with my doctor and said I wanted off all the OxyContin. I was then told that there had been several meetings held about me, and my doctor had been reprimanded by other GPs at the surgery over the amount of OxyContin I had been prescribed over such a long period. I was then referred to my first drug clinic, where the drug worker said they couldn’t help me as it wasn’t heroin. Another clinic told me the same thing. I moved back to the small town I grew up in and registered at the local GP surgery. The doctor drew up a taper plan that I was determined to follow. Over the following months I stuck to it and was doing really well, managing to reduce from the 1,500mg down to the actual prescribed level of 800mg, then gradually further until I’d dropped down to 320mg per day. Findings from the 2014/15 Crime Survey for England and Wales examines the extent and trends in illicit drug use among a nationally representative sample of 16 to 59 year olds resident in households in England and Wales. In 2014/15, for the first time the survey included questions relating to misuse of prescription painkillers (use of prescription analgesics by those for whom they are not prescribed). Findings include: • Overall, 5.4 per cent of adults aged 16 to 59 years had misused a prescription-only painkiller not prescribed to them • 7.2 per cent of 16 to 24 year olds had misused a prescription-only painkiller in the last year, while 4.9 per cent of 25 to 59 year olds had done so. • People with a long-standing illness or disability were more likely to have misused prescription-only painkillers. • Misuse of prescription painkillers is distributed more evenly across the general population than the use of illicit drugs • Misuse of painkillers was similar in both rural and urban areas www.drinkanddrugsnews.com