The Corner

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Britain’s Opioid Problem

Since the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016, the United States has budgeted $1 billion in relief to the nation’s opioid crisis. But the human cost has been infinitely more. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that more than 130 people die every day from opioid-related overdoses.

It is said that when America sneezes, Britain gets the cold. And The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, reports that opioid prescriptions rose by 127 percent in England between 1998 and 2016: The more socioeconomically deprive the area, the more likely usage was. Though there is scant clinical evidence that opioids provide long-term pain relief, one in eight British adults are taking the drugs.

From The Times of London:

Soaring consumption since 2007 is mirrored by an increase in overdoses and deaths, The Sunday Times has discovered. About 2,000 fatalities each year — more than five every day — are down to the powerful painkillers, up by 41% from 10 years ago, as revealed by an analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) by this newspaper.

They include deaths from heroin. Four in five people who try heroin began with prescription painkillers, experts say.

The number of Britons taken to hospital after overdosing on opioids has almost doubled in the past decade. There were 11,500 such cases in 2017-18.

A key concern in the 2019 British election was the effect that leaving the EU would have on British health care and whether, after a trade deal with the U.S., there might be an Americanizing effect on the National Health Service. The former British health minister, Norman Lamb, has warned that the U.K. might be “sleepwalking” into the same opioid crisis as in America. Clearly this issue warrants urgent government attention.

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

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