The founder of a chronic pain support group has criticised a top health chief for his position on strong painkillers, claiming they are crucial for helping people deal with the “ongoing torture of daily life”.
Chris Bridgeford, founder of the Moray-based group Affa Sair, spoke out in favour of opioids being prescribed to patients, after it emerged there has been an increase in prescriptions of drugs such as morphine and fentanyl.
He argued Blair Smith, the Scottish Government’s clinical lead on chronic pain, was wrong to criticise the prescriptions he says allows himself and other members of Affa Sair to get through each day.
Mr Bridgeford, who suffers from a complex pain syndrome and has to take a range of tablets to get through the day, said: “Professor Smith states that long-term use has been shown to be ineffective and can lead to unwanted side effects.
“As a chronic pain sufferer of over 40 years, I feel I’m well placed to argue that – certainly in my case and as with other members of my chronic pain support group Affa Sair – opiates are essential to cope with the never-ending pain, and indeed without suitable analgesia being available, I and many chronic pain sufferers would resort to suicide.”
He added: “In the last few months members of Affa Sair have begun to tell stories of their opiate prescriptions being reduced and denied to them while in hospital.
“Some members have become extremely worried that their present state of having an acceptable level of pain due to their prescribed use of opiates will be cruelly taken away from them.
“I, and other chronic pain sufferers, would rather choose to live with side effects rather than be denied some relief from the ongoing torture of daily life.”
Prof Smith was involved in a university study last year which found that the number of prescriptions for the strongest opioids had more than doubled in a decade.
On the back of the study, the Scottish Government confirmed it would review national prescription policies for high strength painkillers.
Prof Smith said the drugs were useful for pain relief in the short term but had been shown to be ineffective for long-term conditions.
Last night he said: “In common with all relevant professional bodies, I have always been careful to assert that there is a role for opioids, used judiciously, for individuals in whom the benefits outweigh the harms and the risks.
“While for persistent pain, opioids have shown on average to be no more effective than other forms of pain management – pharmalogical and non-pharmalogical – and on average to cause more harm, some individuals do derive benefit safely.
“I am pleased to read that Mr Bridgeford is one such individual.
“It is essential that he and others are allowed access, free of stigma, to this important part of their overall pain management plan.
“It is also essential that early and frequent review of any newly instigated prescription occurs, to determine effectiveness and safety.”