Why talk about other opiates?
While it is true that the majority of people accessing services for problems with opiates are using heroin or methadone, there are other opiates available, and all opiates are potentially addictive.
What do you mean?
Because of the way they act on the chemicals in the brain (they are pain killers after all) every opiate has the potential to be physically addictive if misused. It doesn’t matter if it is heroin or codeine, both can lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
Are there many other opiates that people use?
Perhaps more than you would imagine, and they can be obtained in an every increasing variety of ways.
Can you give me an example?
People usually imagine someone with an opiate addiction as being dirty, unemployed and hanging around in a run-down tower block looking for dealers. The sort of nonsense you can read in Sunday tabloids. This is at best a cruel stereotype.
For instance, for a great many years there have been private doctors in London who are more than happy to prescribe a variety of pain-killers (and other drugs) if you can afford their services.
There can’t be that many people going to such Doctors?
That is almost impossible to know, but I have met people who were prescribed a variety of drugs by such Doctors who eventually needed to access local treatment providers to deal with their addiction problems. The internet is also a growing problem, and an easy means of obtaining pain killers that would normally need to be prescribed.
I thought that was a myth!
Absolutely not, I’m afraid. There are plenty of websites out there that will sell you pain killers, along with a whole variety of other drugs such as sleeping tablets and Valium, if you have a credit card.
This can be really dangerous. Many of the drugs you may buy are made in China or India and are copies of the real thing. In truth, even though they look exactly like the normal tablet it is impossible to know what they contain. Self- medication can be very dangerous.
What does self-medication mean?
For example you might be feeling stressed at work and unable to sleep. So you decide to buy some sleeping tablets from the internet. Prescribing your own medication if you will. Of course with no advice on dosage or how long you should take such medication, it is very easy to end up with a problem.
So to get back to the subject, what sort of opiates are we talking about?
Codeine (often called co-codamol) is quite common, and not too difficult to get hold of. Local treatment services have reported people asking for help with addiction to tablets such as Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Fentanyl and Oramorph, all of which are powerful and potentially addictive pain killers. Very often these have been bought over the internet.
The point is, just because you are not using heroin or methadone does not mean that cannot end up with an addiction to other opiate based pain-killers.
Surely it doesn’t happen often?
Unfortunately it is a lot more common than you might think. People have ended up with difficulties after taking too many Neurofen Plus for too long, and they are the mildest of the opiate based pain-killers.
If it is an opiate based pain-killer be careful – they are all dangerous, addictive and unless prescribed by a doctor, illegal.
If anything here sounds uncomfortably familiar, or you are worried about some of the tablets you are taking, why not ring your local service provider for a confidential chat. It can’t do any harm and it might just save you from a world of trouble further down the road.