A leading pathologist is warning that one prescription painkiller is causing more deaths than cocaine and heroin.
The expert, Prof. Jack Crane – Northern Ireland’s top pathologist – says Tramadol is currently “claiming more lives than any other drug,” and as such ought to be upgraded to the Class A category. Currently, the drug is listed as a Class C medication in the UK; Class C medications are deemed to be the least harmful.
When taken with other medications or mixed with alcohol, Crane said, the combination can be deadly. The drug is taken by thousands of people every day, the UK’s Daily Mail reported.
Tramadol is used to treat both moderate and severe pain. Its last reclassification in 2014 made it illegal to use without a prescription.
Others claim that the drug is safe if taken appropriately, but Crane still thinks it should be more tightly regulated. “I don’t think that people realise how potentially risky taking Tramadol is,” he toldITV News. “I think it’s because it’s a prescription drug – people assume it’s safe.”
Britain’s deadliest drug
Activists working to get the drug more tightly regulated, say that they believe a rising number of users are trying to get the drug via the black market. Crane says he believes more people will die unless there is a concerted effort by police and government agencies to crack down on illegal sales of Tramadol.
His warning comes on the heels of a report calling for the legalization of cannabis in the UK for medicinal use, the Daily Mail said. The controversial report, which was written by a cross-section of lawmakers and peers from various parties and interest groups, says that the British government should allow people with chronic illnesses to grow their own cannabis under license.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform said it would also like to see companies given permission to import or grow marijuana, as well as having lawmakers cut down legal controls and make it less regulated that most other painkillers.
A separate report in West Briton also quotes Crane, who called Tramadol the UK’s deadliest drug. The report said that in 2014, 240 deaths in Britain were linked to Tramadol.
Currently in the U.S. there is an opioid epidemic, and it, too, is a killer. But, as we reported in September, U.S. healthcare makes it easier for opioid-addicted patients to get more medications at hospitals.
A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 1-in-20 Americans abused prescription painkillers at some point in 2015. The agency found that some 119 million Americans aged 12 and older were on prescription psychotherapeutic medications – a term used in the report in reference to “pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives” – in 2015. The report noted further that painkillers were, by far, the most prescribed and abused.
Obamacare partly to blame for epidemic?
To produce the report, SAMHSA researchers employed an estimate derived from about 68,000 surveys. According to findings, “All estimates (e.g. percentages and numbers) presented in the report are derived from NSDUH [National Survey on Drug Use and Health] survey data.” SAMHSA also noted that the use of such medications over the past year was “fairly common” in the United States, with 44.5 percent of the population claiming to have used them at some point during 2015.
And while most of those who abused opioids and other psychotherapeutic drugs got them from family and friends, the second-most common method for obtaining them was via a primary care provider – either as a prescription or by stealing them from doctor’s offices.
Still others blame Obamacare. Under that law, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services allocates $1.5 billion in Medicare payments as a reward to hospitals based on patient satisfaction surveys. Some questions on survey forms include: “During this hospital stay, how often did the hospital staff do everything they could to help you with your pain?” and, “How often was your pain well controlled?”
So, patient satisfaction surveys, in essence, leave administrators with the choice between costing hospitals reimbursement dollars or fueling the opioid epidemic.
J. D. Heyes