'I now have my life back': Grandfather's painkiller plea as health bosses tackle opioid awareness
PUBLISHED: 06:00 04 December 2018
A grandfather who "religiously" relied on a cocktail of prescribed drugs to get through the day has spoken of his relief at getting his life back.
Steve Beamish, from Lowestoft, began taking high-strength opioid painkillers to tackle severe leg and back pain after suffering polio as a child.
The effects of the Fentanyl patches, first prescribed around seven years ago, initially helped, but the 64-year-old ended up a shadow of his former self.
He said: “I got to the point where I wasn’t eating or sleeping. My daughter would bring my grandchildren over and I couldn’t be bothered to speak to them.
“I wasn’t myself at all and my wife said I had completely and utterly changed. I used to be jovial and happy, but was no longer the man she married all those years ago.
“I ended up taking anti-depressants and sleeping pills as well as the opioids to keep me on my feet. Life was not good and when I look back, I realise even though I was using the patches religiously, they really weren’t making that much difference to my pain at all.”
After being called in for a GP appointment, the former internal auditor was prescribed morphine pills and began weaning himself off the patches.
He said: “It was a shock when the doctor called me in but I knew I couldn’t go on like I was. I started reducing the number of pills I was taking and after around four or five months was down to nothing at all.
“I now have my life back. I have fun with my grandchildren and my son and daughter, and have interests again. I know I can’t do everything, but have to accept my limits and work within them. You’re only here once, and need to enjoy yourself the best way you can.
“I thought I was doing what was right by using the patches, but they affected me in so many different ways. I was in a little world of my own, which wasn’t fair on anyone, let alone my wife. I still have pain and discomfort, but its not as bad as it was when I started on the Fentanyl.”
Mr Beamish hopes his story can inspire others to reconsider their use of opioid painkillers, as Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) launch their #OpioidAware campaign to reduce the risk of serious side effects and premature deaths.
The camapign comes after more than 2,000 deaths in England and Wales during 2016 involved an opioid, while 23.8 million opioid-based painkilleds were prescribed in 2017, a 10 million rise in 10 years.
Michael Dennis, head of medicines optimisation at the CCG, said: “The long-term use of opioid drugs for chronic pain can cause a range of different side effects, such as lethargy, memory problems, reduced sex drive and even premature death.
“Opioids are also highly addictive, which means that people can become reliant on them very quickly. As a result, the receptors in the brain adjust so that you have to take higher doses of the drugs to have the same effect. Ironically, this can leave the patient in even more pain and greater discomfort than they would be if they stopped taking the medication altogether.
“We would advise anyone who is taking these strong painkillers to make an appointment with their GP or pain management specialist to discuss reducing their dose safely. It is important to do this slowly and under medical supervision, as stopping opioids suddenly is dangerous.
“You may well find that stopping the medication actually helps your condition, and that you are in less pain without the opioids and may also feel more alert. In addition, your GP or pain specialist can also suggest other things which could help, such as mindfulness, meditation and exercises such as Thai chi and yoga.
“GPs across Great Yarmouth and Waveney are writing to patients at the moment to arrange a review. If you are taking any of these medications and don’t receive a letter, please do get in touch to arrange an appointment so that you can find a safe solution to help you manage your pain.”
‘He was like a zombie’
A man who took morphine for a year to tackle severe shoulder pain has completely transformed after stopping, according to his wife.
Glynn Bryan, from Lowestoft, was prescribed the drug to help with pain from arthritis but his body soon built up a tolerance to the medication.
After a medical review, Mr Bryan began to stop using morphine.
His wife Julia Bryan said: “The morphine helped at first, but within just a few days his body would adapt and it would have no impact on the pain.
“He was like a zombie and would just sit in his chair not making any conversation. He was really quiet and subdued and almost didn’t really know what day of the week it was.
“We reduced his dose slowly from 100mg twice a day to 10mg a week, then continued until he had come off it altogether.
“It has made a massive difference. He is back to the old Glynn.
“It took a few months as you have to come off slowly, but it was worth it as there has been such a positive change in him.”