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Painful medicine

  • D'Agnone, Oscar.
  • Audio

About this work


Radio documentary, presented by Dr. Sally Marlow, looking at how over-the-counter medicines containing codeine are leading to hidden addiction problems. Throughout the programme she also talks to various people who have had painkiller addiction. As an addictions researcher she asks whether the business of GPs, and the speed of being able to ask for something at a chemist, is creating a growing dependency crisis. Marlow speaks to Dr. Oscar D'Agnone, psychiatrist and clinical director of CRI, a social care and health charity dealing with substance misuse, about the data on painkiller addiction and deaths. She also speaks to toxicologist, Dr. John Ramsay, about the range of medications available over the counter. They consider different types of painkillers and talk about codeine as an opiate and how it metabolises in the body. Marlow talks to Cathy Stannard, a consultant in pain medicine at Southmead Hospital, Bristol, an expert in opioid drugs, about types of pain and the different drug treatments. The continuing drivers for the use of certain medications are considered as well as long-term use that may not be motivated by pain, including addiction. Fabrizio Schifano, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of Hertfordshire, talks about the misuse of drugs. David Grieve, who set up the charity Overcount after becoming addicted to cough medicine, talks about the problems people have. Dr. Paolo Deluca, from King's College London, is leading the British arm of a European study looking into codeine misuse, called CODEMISUSED. He discusses how sources of data on codeine misuse are scarce but are gradually being triangulated under this study. Marlow talks to various contributors about the problems of safety when buying codeine on the Internet and the dark net. She considers the trend towards self-care that is being encouraged by the pharmaceutical industry and how more drugs are being taken off prescription. This leads to pharmacists playing a more vital role in our healthcare. Neil Patel, Head of Corporate Communications at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, discusses whether the public are currently protected against the risks of strong painkillers. Drug misuse services and lack of take-up of these services is mentioned along with problems associated with drug treatment programmes.


UK : BBC Radio 4, 2014.

Physical description

1 CD (38 min.)


Broadcast on 2 September, 2014.

Creator/production credits

Presented by Sally Marlow ; produced by Fiona Hill for BBC Radio 4.

Copyright note

BBC Radio 4



  • English

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