Tag Archives: Wales

Mental Health

e-Petition: Add Mental Health Education to the mandatory teaching curriculum for all schools in Wales

open quote / dyfyniad agored

When working for Mental – The Podcast to Destigmatise Mental Health, I am continually concerned by the lack of education in schools around mental health. With 1 in 4 of us experiencing mental illness every year according to the charity Mind, this seems to be a real and significant gap in our education system.

KEY STATISTICS:

Over half of all mental ill health starts before the age of 14, and 75% of this has developed by the age of 18;

A 2015 survey found that 13% of adults (16 & older) living in Wales were reported to have received treatment for a mental health problem, an increase from 12% reported in 2014;

The overall cost of mental health problems in Wales is an estimated £7.2 billion a year.

The statistics are shocking, yet whilst there is a whole subject in the Welsh curriculum about our physical health in the form of PE, our young people are left without knowledge of even the most common mental illnesses.
Not only does this leave them unprepared & vulnerable when it comes to looking out for their own mental health, but also sets the standard that Mental Health is not discussed. This plants a seed of stigma that many carry for their whole lives.

We are keen to hear back from those in power on a more extensive plan to better the lives of Wales’s young people.

CAMPAIGNING FOR:

Mental Health education becoming mandatory teaching for all schools in Wales without the addition of any exams/homework on this subject.
Every child in Wales having the ability to access a qualified counsellor through their school.
Every school in Wales offering Mental Health training for its staff.

Please join our petition to help bring us one step closer to making these requests a reality for Welsh children, thus safeguarding the health of generations to come.

Thank you for reading, Annie Harris

Learn more about this petition & the team behind it at mentalpodcast.co.uk/petition

1. Source: Murphy M and Fonagy P (2012). Mental health problems in children and young people. In: Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2012. London: Department of Health.

2. and 3. Source: Mental Health Foundation. Mental Health in Wales, Fundamental Facts 2016 (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/FF16%20Wales.pdf)

Please see https://www.change.org/p/get-mental-health-education-on-the-school-curriculum-mentalpetition-join-me-and-over-100-000-others for the national interest in this petition. We handed in the petition to 10 Downing Street on 3rd October 2018.

Sign here

https://www.assembly.wales/en/gethome/e-petitions/Pages/petitiondetail.aspx?PetitionID=1446

Opioids: Why ‘dangerous’ drugs are still being used to treat pain – BBC

The widespread use of opioids to treat pain frequently prompts concerns about addiction and even deaths. So, why are these sometimes dangerous drugs still being given to patients?

Much stronger than many of the other options, opioids are among the world’s most commonly prescribed painkillers.

These drugs – including morphine, tramadol and fentanyl – are used to treat pain caused by everything from heart attacks to cancer.

But in the UK they were recently linked to the deaths of hundreds of elderly hospital patients, while the US is battling a well-documented opioid epidemic.

Why not just use other painkillers to avoid the risk of harm?

A worldwide problem

Opioids work by combining with receptors in the brain to reduce the sensation of pain – and they are highly effective.

However, opioid receptors are present in areas of the brain responsible for breath control and high doses can dangerously reduce the rate of breathing – the cause of almost all opioid deaths

full article on the BBC

The hidden problem of addiction to prescription benzodiazepines | Wales – ITV News

Health officials have expressed concern over the number of people dependent on a class of prescription drugs called benzodiazepines.

First prescribed in the 1960s, benzodiazepines – also known as ‘benzos’ – are a group of medications used to treat anxiety, agitation, seizures and sleeping problems. But according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, around 40% of people who take the drugs every day for longer than six weeks will become addicted, and withdrawal symptoms can be severe.

“They worry me the amount that people are taking”, said Dr Julia Lewis, Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist at Gwent Specialist Substance Misuse Service. “People that get dependent get very tolerant to them over a period of time and take increasing doses, and because they are associated with sedation, coma and actually ultimately death, if you take enough of them, then that’s a concern.”

Jim, from south Wales, was first prescribed benzodiazepines as a teenager to help with stress and anxiety. 34 years later, he is still taking them.

“I’m a drug addict, but not drugs that I went out and bought on the street”, said Jim. “It’s a prescription drug addiction”.

Full article

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http://www.itv.com/news/wales/2018-07-13/the-hidden-problem-of-addiction-to-benzodiazepines/

Opioid Epidemic UK

It is not easy to get a comprehensive picture of the overall situation regarding the prescribing of OP and the purchase of codeine-containing OTC formulations, but piecing together the evidence from various datasets reveals that the UK population is consuming considerable and increasing amounts of OP:

 In 2012, some ten million people in the UK were prescribed an OP, more than double the next nearest EU country France at four million

 In 2013, the UK had the highest sales of morphine by volume than any other country in the EU

 In 2013, the UK had the highest sales of opiates like codeine by volume than any other country in the EU and between 2010-2013 the UK had a 6% growth in sales, against the next largest margin increase in the EU.

 In 2011, Northern Ireland has highest annual prevalence of prescription opioid use in the world (8.4%)

 In the period 1994-2009, Tramadol prescribing increased tenfold and all OP showed significant increases in level of prescribing during this period with the exception of dihydrocodeine. Just in England, the number of prescriptions rose from around three million in 1991 to 23 million by 2014.

 Defined Daily Doses for Tramadol in England have increased from 5.9 million in 2005 to 11.1 million in 2012.

 Between 2001-2011, prescription for co-codamol almost doubled from 8.8 million to 15 million

Since the early 1980s, the extensive professional, political and media discourse about drug misuse and addiction has centred on the use of a wide range of illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine, and ecstasy. There is also a public and professional awareness about the dependency potential of tranquillisers and antidepressants highlighted, for example, by class actions brought against pharmaceutical companies, media reports and articles, popular and medical books, TV documentaries, and guidelines produced by the medical profession to advise against over-prescribing. That said, the very existence of this APPG indicates continuing and very real concerns not only about the startling level of prescribing of tranquillisers and antidepressants3, but also the lack of specialist help underlined by the recent closure of some of the few charitable helping agencies that do exist.

In recent years too, there has been a growing awareness of the dangers of OP, most notably dependency and overdose. The evidential base is most developed in the USA where celebrity revelations including Michael Jackson, Burt Reynolds, Melanie Griffiths and Jamie Lee Curtis have served to foreground the risks demonstrated by the epidemiological evidence and clinical case reporting.4 It has been suggested that much of the problem has derived from the progression from only prescribing OP for acute pain and cancer treatment to more generalised chronic pain conditions which has led to more widespread misuse and rising mortality in many Western countries.

In the UK, public and professional awareness in the UK of the potential dependency and overdose risks of OP has been patchy. Despite some sporadic press coverage going back into the 1990s, the subject really didn’t hit the headlines until 2009 with the publication of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drugs report, An inquiry into physical dependence and addiction to prescription and over-the-counter medication. The remit covered tranquillisers, anti-depressants and OP and MPs took evidence from campaigners, doctors, clinical researchers, government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry.

Exerpts from

Opioid painkiller dependency (OPD): an overview.
A report written for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prescribed Medicine Dependency by Harry Shapiro

Prescription drug addiction: government launches investigation

Public Health England will review prescription of medicines including opioid painkillers

The government has ordered an investigation into the growing problem of addiction to prescription drugs such as painkillers and medicines to treat anxiety and insomnia.

Steve Brine, the public health minister, has acted after it emerged that one in 11 (8.9%) patients treated by the NHS in England last year was given a drug that can induce dependency.

Fears about excessive prescription has also been boosted more than 100% rise in the number of antidepressants prescribed in England over the last decade and the fact antidepressants prescribed in England over the last decade and the fact that prescription of addictive medicines has increased by 3% over the last five years.

Full story – https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/24/prescription-drug-addiction-government-launches-investigation

The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs

Two years ago, Dr Chris van Tulleken discovered we are taking more prescription drugs than ever before – a billion prescriptions a year in the UK. He worked with a GP surgery to get patients to try drug-free alternatives – with amazing results.

Now he is on a new mission – to understand why we are giving British kids over three times more medication than we were 40 years ago. As a new dad, Chris has a very personal motivation to explore the reasons behind this explosion in medication. In the series he sets about finding alternatives which might be just as, or even more, effective than drugs. He tackles the shocking rise in teens taking anti-depressants by testing if wilderness therapy can work where the drugs are failing. He investigates why parents are giving out so many over-the-counter meds when they may not be always necessary, and he helps hyperactive kids replace their drugs with mindful meditation.

He also digs deeper into the forces driving the over-medication of UK children and asks whether the drug industry itself could be playing a part in the rise. In 2016 we spent a staggering £64 million on one brand of children’s liquid paracetamol. Chris meets a self-confessed fan who reveals she has bought over 25 bottles in less than two years! As a new dad, Chris doesn’t blame vulnerable parents. His research reveals a pharmaceutical industry that helps create a culture which, he believes, encourages parents to unnecessarily use liquid paracetamol. At a family fair in Bristol, Chris creates a surprising stunt to show Britain’s parents when not to give liquid paracetamol and make sure they don’t waste their hard-earned money giving children drugs they don’t need.

One of the other areas where medication rates have increased the most is treating kids’ behavioural problems – prescription meds for ADHD have increased by 800 per cent since 2000. These drugs do help some symptoms of ADHD in the short-term, but side effects can include loss of hunger, changes in personality and stunted growth. Chris joins a group of hyperactive children as they attempt the impossible – an intense course of stillness and mindful meditation as an alternative to the meds. As the families go on transformative and emotional journeys, they discover, with poignant results, that ADHD remedies do not always have to come in a pill.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b4jjq3

L’s Story

I would like to share my story, in order to highlight the harm that I believe is caused by SSRI and SNRI antidepressants.

In 2008 I suffered the horrendous experience of a depressive psychosis. It was diagnosed by psychiatry as “postnatal psychosis”. I now have a strong suspicion that my psychosis was caused by an SSRI and an SNRI.

My first daughter was born in April 2008. I took citalopram at a steady dose for about 2 years prior to the birth and throughout my pregnancy. In the days after she was born, I read that sertraline was the safest SSRI to take while breastfeeding. I asked the GP about it and she changed me from citalopram to sertraline. In the following weeks I became very depressed. I was changed back to citalopram and the dose was increased. In the weeks following this I became suicidally depressed and developed a florid depressive psychosis. I made several suicide attempts and was sectioned. I continued on citalopram and olanzapine was added. I did not respond quickly to the meds so was given ECT. I had a fairly rapid improvement following ECT and was allowed home. However, after a few months my depressive psychosis returned. I was changed to venlafaxine and quetiapine and after 3 months the depressive psychosis lifted and I remained well until two years after the birth of my second daughter in 2012. I was advised to take quetiapine for some months after this birth. I remained well for 2 years, however, when no longer on quetiapine, I had another episode of depressive psychosis. I remained on venlafaxine but this time quetiapine was not effective. My antipsychotic was changed to amisulpride and after 3 months I recovered. I have remained on a low dose of amisulpride and have not experienced psychosis since then. I now wonder about the possibility that I have a sensitivity to SSRIs/SNRIs and that my episodes of psychosis were actually caused by citalopram/venlafaxine and that the psychosis was only subdued by the addition of an antipsychotic.

I was told on a number of occasions by the psychiatry team that my illness was “atypical”. I do not remember any of the psychiatry team ever mentioning the possibility that my depressive psychosis may have been caused by the SSRI or SNRI – it was always attributed to an underlying illness – “postnatal psychosis” or “psychotic depression”. This has led me to wonder how many other cases of worsened depression and psychosis may be influenced by these drugs, which is why I want to highlight the issue. If psychiatry is not considering this possibility, this potential cause will not be being reported and it could be going unnoticed, meaning it is possible that, like me, some people are advised to continue on the drugs that precipitated their illness in the first place, with further drugs being added to counteract the negative effects of the SSRI/SNRI.

I would also like to highlight the problems I have had attempting to withdraw from venlafaxine. In discussion with my psychiatrist, I decided to come off venlafaxine in 2015, having been well for over 2 years. My psychiatrist recommended a taper which I now believe was way too fast – over several weeks. The withdrawal during those weeks was a truly awful experience. For the whole period of withdrawal and several weeks afterwards, I felt like I had a severe bout of the flu and a terrible hangover. I had electric shock sensations in my head. It felt as if my brain was being constantly irritated by a chemical. I felt agitated and intensely irritable. I felt an intense burning sensation in my head, spine and oesophagus. My body ached all over. I had abdominal pain. I lost my senses of taste and smell. Then approximately 3 months after stopping venlafaxine, I became depressed. I completely lost my appetite and felt a physical sensation of my body and mind being an empty shell, unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was admitted to a psychiatric unit. My bowel stopped working. I was put back on venlafaxine and after approximately 4 months I fairly suddenly started to feel better again. The physical symptoms disappeared. The psychiatry team were convinced the whole episode was caused by my underlying illness – “psychotic depression”, because my depression could not be controlled without venlafaxine. However, I strongly suspect that what I experienced was a very bad case of withdrawal from venlafaxine.

Recently I decided I would like to try to withdraw from venlafaxine again, but this time much, much more slowly. I found a Facebook group dedicated to venlafaxine withdrawal. It has approximately 3800 members. Time and time again people report that they were not warned about the difficulties that many people have withdrawing from venlafaxine – indeed most medical professionals seem completely unaware of the problem that so many of us experience. The recommended taper advised in the group is a maximum of 10% of the dose at a time, with a hold of at least 30 days or until all withdrawal symptoms have resolved, before tapering again. For many of us, particularly those of us who have been taking it for a number of years, it would seem that to have the best chance of getting off venlafaxine and staying well we must reduce the dose very gradually over years. There are members of the group who, like me, came off much more quickly on the advice of their psychiatrist/GP, did not reinstate the drug quickly enough and who have suffered a protracted withdrawal over years, with a whole host of symptoms. I can’t help but feel that if there could be a much greater understanding of antidepressant withdrawal amongst medical professionals, including revised guidelines for withdrawal in the community, then more of us would receive the support we need to come off venlafaxine and other psychiatric drugs, rather than suffering intense withdrawal symptoms and being told that they are nothing to do with withdrawal but are the return of our original illness.

I find it very interesting in relation to my suspicion that I experienced SSRI induced psychosis that, since reducing my venlafaxine dose from 150mg to 100mg, my thoughts seem less distorted and obsessive, I have less anxiety and my thinking is much clearer.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

L… G….

NHS ‘creating drug addicts’ as figures show surge in prescriptions for powerful opioid painkillers

he number of prescriptions for powerful painkillers in England has nearly doubled in 10 years, it has been reported.

The surge in people taking opioids such as morphine has prompted doctors to warn that people are becoming addicted in greater numbers.

The family of drugs also includes codeine, tramadol and fentanyl, which is many times stronger.

According to the BBC, some 28.3 million opioids were prescribed by GPs in 2017, the equivalent of 2,700 packs an hour.

The figure is around 10 million more than the number of opioid prescriptions in 2007.

Opioids are prescribed to treat severe pain only after consultation with a GP or a pain specialist.

Full article – https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/16/nhs-creating-drug-addicts-figures-show-surge-prescriptions-powerful/

1 in 7

On the 9th May 2018 Michelle Ballantyne, MSP, raised the important issue of antidepressant overuse in the Scottish Parliament:

This was the first part of the response made by the Minister for Mental Health:

As an NHS doctor who has worked as a psychiatrist  in Scotland for over 25 years I am not reassured by this response by the Minister for Mental Health. I have highlighted three aspects of this response which I wish to briefly consider:

CLINICAL DECISION:
I agree that prescribing should follow the principles of  informed consent and shared decision making.  However informed consent will not be possible if the information that doctors base prescribing on follows marketing and promotion rather than independent, and more objective, continuing medical education.  The Scottish Government has consulted the public on the need for mandatory declarations of financial competing interests for doctors and academics in an open, central register. The public made it clear that this was what they felt was necessary. More than two years on from this consultation and there is no such system ensuring the transparency that is necessary for informed decision making between clinician and patient.

GOOD EVIDENCE:
Where is the “Good Evidence” to support the prescribing of antidepressants to 1 in 7 Scots, a significant proportion of whom are taking antidepressants long term or indefinitely? I have, like others, asked the Scottish Government to provide this “good evidence” but have been provided with no evidence to support such mass prescribing of  long term antidepressants.

APPROPRIATELY:
Currently there is a petition being considered by the Scottish Parliament in relation to potential problems with prescribed medications. This has highlighted that an important aspect which should determine the “appropriateness” of prescribing, namely the experience of people who are taking medications, has not been given the weight that it should.

Full Article

Antidepressants (Overuse)