Rise in UK opioid prescriptions contributes to surge in overdose fatalities


Rise in UK opioid prescriptions contributes to surge in overdose fatalities

Margot Miller

14 March 2019

A study by the British Journal of General Practice reveals an alarming rise in the number of National Health Service (NHS) prescriptions for opioids issued by General Practitioners (GPs). This is greatest in the more deprived areas of the country.

“Patterns of regional variation of opioid prescribing in primary care in England: a retrospective observational study” provides further proof that life expectancy, health, and access to health care is very much a function of the most fundamental division of society under capitalism—class. Poverty and the stresses that it brings is a major killer.

Opioids are prescribed for pain relief, especially acute pain in cancer and end of life care, or for short-term use after an injury or surgery. The most commonly known are morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone, tramadol and codeine. Fentanyl is so powerful it is used to knock out elephants and is also used in executions. Six or seven grains of the substance can prove lethal.

The consequences of long-term use of opioids can be devastating, often leading to death.

The British Journal of General Practice records that “[m]ore opioids were prescribed in the north than in the south of England, and more opioids were prescribed in areas of greater social deprivation.”

The 10 highest areas for GP opioid prescribing are NHS Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and CCGs in St Helens, Lincolnshire East, Knowsley, Barnsley, Corby, Halton, Great Yarmouth and Waveney, Doncaster and South Tees—all areas with the highest concentrations of deprivation. Nine out of 10 of these areas are in the largely de-industrialised north of England, which are blighted by poverty.

Dr Roger Knaggs,…

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