The Reader: Medical profession must treat opioids with more caution


Your article on opioid addiction was timely and highlights a serious and growing problem [March 15]. The pathway from prescribed strong opioid painkillers to illicit use and dependence is well trodden.

Another problem is the abuse of over-the-counter preparations containing opioids, which can be purchased in local chemists without a prescription. In these preparations the opioid is combined with an anti-inflammatory drug. I have seen more teenagers and adults being given one who have liked the mildly euphoric effect.

They can be the gateway drugs for stronger prescription painkillers referred to in your article and for heroin. However opioids are formulated, their addictive potential is huge and should be treated with respect by patients and medical professionals alike.
Dr Paul McLaren, Medical director, Priory Hayes Grove Hospital

I rarely write letters but your article on opioids is one of the best I’ve seen in the Standard since I started reading it 24 years ago.

The paper should start a petition for drug companies to make it clear on packets that they can be addictive, as with cigarette warnings, in addition to lobbying the Government to change the law.

It is good to see such socially concerned, investigative journalism.
Susan Fong


Dear Paul and Susan

Thanks to both of you for your interest in our special investigation into opioids here in Britain.

David Cohen is an award-winning reporter who has put many months into this piece of journalism and, as you see from today’s paper, we are still publishing its findings. I was talking to David on Friday about what the Evening Standard could do to change medical practice and government guidance to reduce opioid dependency. Our investigation found that use of these drugs has doubled in a decade, yet for 90 per cent of patients they do not work.

Your suggestions of cautionary labelling, and tightening the availability of over-the-counter prescriptions, strike me as very sensible. We will study them further. A responsible newspaper doesn’t just expose problems, it also tries to propose solutions.

George Osborne, Editor

Spurs are betraying the most loyal fans

Tottenham Hotspur, ahead of the opening of their new stadium in August, are treating elderly, loyal season-ticket holders shabbily. Many of us have had season tickets for up to 50 years yet this is being ignored in the phased allocation system being used to apply for tickets.

This is based on tenure and loyalty points combined. But season ticket records appear only to go back 11 years, meaning the games we went to before do not count. Loyalty points are mainly accrued by going to away games, which can become difficult for people aged 70 and over.

I would urge chairman Daniel Levy to reconsider this ageist system and prioritise Spurs’ most loyal supporters. Surely, after so many years of support, this is our entitlement?
Susan Melkman

Unilever move is the first of many

I think most people would have heard of Unilever as a company and could possibly name at least two or three of its products. Equally, the majority would agree that it is retrograde to move its HQ to Rotterdam after 100 years in the UK.

Financial clearing house Euroclear recently announced it was moving to Brussels. Other smaller agencies have already gone, and we shall see many more of varying size following suit over the next few months.

With every company that leaves we not only lose money but prestige and influence, and the knock-on effect continues down the line.

Of course, hardline Brexiteers will tell us huge rewards are only around the corner and that we should not worry. But that’s easy for them because, ultimately, they aren’t the ones losing their jobs.
Robert Boston

Make less plastic, not use it better

Christina Valimaki makes some good points about the complexities of reducing plastic use [Letters, March 15].

The reality, however, is that we need to use less packaging, not find better ways of making it. It is our addiction to time-saving and convenience that is the problem.

If you start to look at what reducing plastic in your house actually means, it involves cooking meals from scratch, taking your lunch out with you and shopping locally at small shops for vegetables and meat. It means doing the planning that the supermarkets do for consumers, but at least you will eat better, save money and local shops will flourish.

In this case, we can have our cake and eat it — but we should make the cake rather than buying it pre-packaged in plastic.
Mark Harvey

Williamson is unfit for office

Following your coverage of the nerve gas attack, I was horrified, especially in the present serious circumstances, to see and hear what our Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson had to say.

Can Theresa May’s judgment be trusted after appointing Williamson to such a critical position? We need senior statesmanship, experience and politicians acting in a diplomatic manner, not childish dismissals that could cause another Cold War.
Marina Grut

I support Jeremy Corbyn’s efforts in trying to stop tensions with Russia from escalating. I for one do not want my young family ending up atomised in a third world war because of a childish government goaded on by Gavin Williamson. Behave like adults and talk to Russia.
Steve Hancomb