Prescription painkiller Tramadol, taken by thousands of people every day, is claiming more lives than any other drug – including heroin and cocaine – according to Northern Ireland’s top pathologist.
The painkiller doesn’t cause harm if taken correctly, but the danger rises when users mix it with other drugs or alcohol.
Last year, 33 deaths in Northern Ireland were linked to Tramadol.
Among them were a 16-year-old girl and a pensioner in his 70s
The opiate-based drug used to treat moderate or severe pain should only be available on prescription – it was reclassified in 2014 making it an illegal Class C drug without prescription.
But anti-drug campaigners say more and more people are turning to the black market.
Professor Jack Crane has spoken out to say he fears more people will die unless urgent action is taken and he is calling for a crackdown on the illegal market.
He wants Tramadol to be upgraded again, this time to Class A.
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Professor Crane is now set to meet Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer later this month to push for change.
Pain Management: Drug Tolerance and Addiction
Opioids, a family of drugs that have effects similar to those of opium or morphine, can be addictive. They include:
- Fetanyl (including brand name Duragesic)
- Oxycodone (including brand name OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Tylox, and Roxicet))
- Morphine (including brand name MS Contin)
- Meperidine (including brand name Demerol)
- Hydrocodone (including brand name Vicodin and Lortab)
- Hydromorphone (including brand name Dilaudid)
Most people who take their pain medicine as directed by their doctor do not become addicted, even if they take the medicine for a long time. However, some people may be at a higher risk of becoming addicted than others. People who have been addicted to substances in the past or those with a family member who is or has been addicted to drugs or alcohol may be at increased risk of becoming addicted to narcotics.
The key to avoiding addiction is to take your medicine exactly as your doctor prescribes.
Share with your doctor any personal and/or family history of substance abuse or addiction. Your doctor needs this information to prescribe the medicines that will work best for you. Fears about addiction should not prevent you from using narcotics to effectively relieve your pain.
Remember, it is common for people to develop a tolerance to their pain medication and to need higher doses to achieve the same level of pain relief. Such a situation is normal and is not a sign of addiction. However, you should talk to your doctor if this effect becomes troubling.