COMMENT: Difficult conversations are better than the alternative of a US nightmare
Commenting on figures showing Sunderland to be among the top areas of the country for painkiller prescriptions, he made reference to America’s opioid crisis.
The head of medicines optimisation at NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “There’s been a lot of media coverage of the opioid crisis in America, but we’re not at that stage yet.”
And it’s the ‘yet’ that should get people worried.
America is the opioid capital of the world which produces staggeringly depressing statistics when it comes to prescription drug abuse. For every one million Americans, almost 50,000 doses of opioids are taken every day. That's four times the rate in the UK.
Nationally, opioids killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That figure includes deaths from heroin, but almost half involved a prescription opioid. A painkiller available, just like here, from a pharmacy with a note from a doctor. Things are so bad in the US that the government spends more than half a billion dollars helping babies born addicted to opioids! We are, thankfully, nowhere near that situation, but we still need to act.
The North East is at the sharp end of a national issue, and doctors and patients need to have “difficult conver sations” to tackle the problem.
These conversations are a small price to pay if they help us to avoid the American nightmare.