The US’ opioid crisis is set to spread to the UK

The opioid epidemic that is crippling the US is set to spread to Europe as doctors continue to over prescribe the highly-addictive painkillers, experts warn.

Opioids, which often lead to addicts experimenting with illegal substances such as heroin, have killed more deaths by accidental overdose than any other drug in US history, leading to President Donald Trump declaring the epidemic a national public health emergency yesterday. 

Cathy Stannard, a consultant in pain medicine in Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, said: ‘We (in Europe) are mindful of all the facets of the U.S. conversation, but where we start on this is a very similar increase in prescription rates of opioid medicines.’

Europe’s overall overdose deaths rose for the third consecutive year in 2015 to 8,441, 81 percent of which were related to opioids. 

Prescriptions aside, the number of US deaths caused by the production of potent synthetic opioids by drug traffickers rose by 1,125 percent between 2000 and 2015.  

The opioid epidemic that is crippling the US is set to Europe  due to over prescribing 


A single injection of stem cells could relieve agonising back pain for up to three years and curb the opioid endemic that is spreading in the UK and killing thousands annually in the US, research suggested earlier this month.

Stem cell injections into the spine ease the discomfort of around half of chronic lower back pain sufferers for two years, with some even being symptom-free three years later, a study found.

Researchers from the drug manufacturer Mesoblast in Melbourne believe injected stem cells reinflate vertebrae that have dried and cracked by causing water to trap between discs. 

Such treatments could resolve the opioid endemic that killed 33,000 people in the US in 2015 alone, with half of such painkiller prescriptions being due to chronic lower back pain.

Yesterday, President Donald Trump declared an opioid public health emergency in the US.

Deaths risen by up to 1,125% 

Christopher Jones, who works at the US Department of Health researching the opioid addiction, said: ‘We’ve seen stabilization in [prescription opioids] since around 2011. Where we now see real change is in synthetic opioids.’

Drug traffickers, particularly from China, are producing more potent, dangerous variants of opioids to hook new users.

Between 2000 and 2015, US deaths from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine, rose by 1,125 percent. 

In the same 15 years deaths from all opioids rose by 294 percent.

Overall drug overdose deaths in the US reached around 64,000 last year, up from 52,000 in 2015; more than half of which were related to opioids.

Europe’s overdose deaths rose for the third consecutive year in 2015 to 8,441; 81 percent of which were related to opioids, including heroin.

‘Pose a significant risk’ 

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) agrees there is a growing threat from synthetic opioids.

EMCDDA’s scientific director Paul Griffiths said: ‘We have seen in the last 18 months the rapid emergence of new highly potent synthetic opioids, mostly fentanyl derivatives. 

‘Their potency means they pose a significant risk to those that consume them or are accidentally exposed to them.’

Mr Jones added: ‘There is a lack of awareness of the drugs people are using, meaning they can’t protect themselves.’