Along with millions of others, the latest Line Of Duty series grabbed me. While the storylines on the hit TV show often detract from credibility, there is one part that sounds terribly true: One of the main characters, Detective Inspector Steve Arnott, is addicted to prescription pain killers.
His battle with these drugs lifts the lid on a subject that is seldom discussed but shockingly widespread. I have seen many patients in my clinics who experience the same agony as he does.
For most of us, the term drug addict conjures up images of pale, thin spendthrifts injecting heroin or crack or smoking. Drug addicts are people who live in dormitories or on park benches and beg on the street.
Still, many of the patients I see do not fit that description.
Dr. Max Pemberton believes Steve Arnott’s addiction to prescription pain relievers in Line Of Duty opens the lid to a subject that is rarely discussed. Pictured: DS Steve Arnott, DC Chloe Bishop and Superintendent Ted Hastings
They are normal, law abiding men and women, just like you and me. They go to work, they take care of their families.
They go shopping at the weekend, take care of their children or grandchildren.
They’re unremarkable in every way except one: Despite their looks, they’re addicting.
In addition, many of them are elderly.
A woman I saw in the clinic was in her late 50s. At first she didn’t like talking about her addiction, instead calling it her “silliness”.
For several years she was taking more and more over-the-counter pain relievers. She was now consuming about six packets a day. The pain relievers contained codeine, a mild opiate.
Her pharmacy had grown suspicious of buying so many pills and so regularly that she devised an elaborate trip every morning to get enough pills from different locations to see them throughout the day. As soon as her husband, a high-flying city attorney, went to work every morning, she set off on her mission.
Knowing that if she went to the same pharmacy more than once a week she would refuse to sell her the pills, she had used the internet to create an itinerary for each day, with the pharmacies grouped by location so that they could did not do this. You don’t have to travel unreasonable distances.
She even managed to fit this into her other commitments, so for example on a Monday when she volunteered at a charity shop, the pharmacies were all nearby.
As part of the organizational planning, it was mind-boggling in its rigor.
Dr. Max (pictured) said addiction doesn’t discriminate. Some people turn to substances to help deal with the realities of their lives or to manage underlying mental health issues
“Sunday used to be difficult, but I managed to combine the tablets with the weekly shop as all supermarkets have them in stock,” she said.
“And that means that I can also get great bargains because I have to visit three supermarkets and all reduce different things. My husband is overjoyed. ‘Fortunately, her husband was not aware of the extent of her “silliness”. “He’s hardly home so he doesn’t notice,” she said to me. “I have to be careful with the packaging. I’m afraid I’ll throw them all in a trash can in the park. I know I should really be recycling them. ‘
When I sat down and found out exactly how much codeine was in each tablet and how much she was taking each day, I was horrified to find that she was actually taking so much opiate that it was the equivalent of one bag of heroin a day – roughly like this much like the average heroin addict.
We have to accept that we lost the war on cannabis. Instead of just turning an eye, we have to make it legal so we can regulate it. In times of prohibition: When alcohol was illegal, it got stronger and stronger. When it was legalized, limits were set. So let’s tax it and add a mental health levy
“But I’m not addicted,” she repeated frequently, and I often wondered if it was me she was trying to convince or herself. “I mean, I can’t be addicted. I pay my taxes and listen to radio 2, for heaven’s sake! ‘
But addiction doesn’t discriminate. It is a sad fact that all sorts of people, for a variety of reasons, sometimes turn to substances to cope with the realities of their lives or to deal with underlying mental health issues. And too often, doctors fail to recognize the evidence that someone is becoming addicted.
There is very poor care and support for these people and no dedicated services to help them outside of the regular drug services. These understandably focus on illicit drugs like heroin and crack cocaine and have little understanding or training in using over-the-counter medication for pain reliever addiction.
Also, a big part of the problem is that, unlike those who are addicted to illegal drugs or alcohol, many of these patients manage to juggle their addiction alongside work.
They usually don’t have social benefits or are arrested, so there is little political will to intervene and help these people. Meeting this patient was a healing lesson for me to understand that addiction can affect anyone in any area of life.
It also taught me that just because a drug comes in a packet you buy over-the-counter on the high street instead of being wrapped in plastic wrap by a man wearing a hoodie in a dark alley and doing it can’t be dangerous that it is not addictive.
Why don’t I have one sympathy for Khloe
Khloe Kardashian faced a backlash after the unphotographed picture of her grandmother was posted online by the reality TV star in a bikini (below). It was a far cry from the usual shiny and incredibly perfect Khloe that featured on social media.
She has now posted a video of herself to show what she really looks like and then posted a post in which she said, “It is almost unbearable to try to live up to the standards that the public has set for me . ” I’m sorry, but if she’s sought sympathy, she won’t get any from me. After sitting in eating disorders clinics for nearly a decade, I’ve seen the aftermath of this increasing obsession with impossible body ideals promoted by people like the Kardashians. I am terminally ill from celebrities posting manipulated images online. It damages the body image and self-esteem of young people immeasurably.
- Today is the first day of the grand opening. Finally, after months of imprisonment, we are allowed to begin the first preliminary steps towards freedom. But while we’ve waited a lifetime for this, I worry that some of us will struggle to reappear anytime soon. Lockdown has been tough for people’s mental health and the real concern now is how anxious people still are. I’ve noticed this in patients – even though I do offer personal appointments, there’s still a hardcore group that just won’t leave their home because they’re so petrified that they’ll contract coronavirus. For me, the struggle we are facing now is not the virus, but our fear of the virus.
Dr. Max recommends Paul Anderton and Robin Daly’s new book Regrown for learning how to grow food from kitchen waste (file image).
Dr. Max prescribes …
Growing plants from leftovers
Watching something grow is incredibly therapeutic. Paul Anderton and Robin Daly’s new book Regrown is an easy-to-understand beginner’s guide to growing fruits, herbs, and vegetables from kitchen waste. What a brilliant, fun idea for spring.