Saturday, December 4

Television. “Forbidden Zone”: revelations on opioid painkillers, drugs that kill

Simon died of an overdose at age 25 in 2019. It was not heroin, cocaine, or some other illegal hard drug, but medication prescribed by his doctors.

The case of Simon, a student in Grenoble …

The young man was addicted to opioid painkillers. In the morning, he could swallow a whole strip of Klipal, a drug based on codeine and paracetamol. It thus relieved his chronic migraines and his depressive tendencies.

Two years later, his mother Helga continues to lead the fight to find out the reasons for her son’s death. The magazine “Zone Interdite”, broadcast this Sunday, November 21 on M6, followed her in her quest for truth. How could this sociology student in Grenoble and passionate guitarist sink into the hell of addiction, to the point of dying? The week before his death, he had been prescribed 400 pills of medicine by different doctors.

Like heroin, opioid painkillers are made from opium. There are mild (Dafalgan Codeine, Tramadol) or strong (morphine, Oxycodone, Fentanyl) opioids. These are prescribed for severe pain, but are also considered narcotics. Regardless of age or social background, anyone can become addicted.

… and Nadine, 60, executive assistant

Nadine, 60, living in a beautiful house in a wealthy suburb of Toulouse, cannot do without her daily dose. Ultra powerful pills every 4 hours, a patch based on a molecule 100 times stronger than morphine, antidepressants… such is his prison. “It’s horrible. I don’t understand how I got there, but it’s a vicious circle, it’s an obsession,” she testifies to the “Forbidden Zone” teams.

This management assistant, with no money problem, mother of two and married to a loving man, fell into the trap in 2013. Due to a stabbing pain in her knee after a car accident, she took a first morphine cachet. “The first pill is quite incredible, because you no longer have pain, you are like cotton, on a little cloud,” she recalls. Today, she regrets, because her life revolves around her painkillers. Addicts to these drugs, like any drug, “think only of that from evening to morning”, explains the French specialist in analgesics, Professor Nicolas Authier.

Doctors who easily make prescriptions

This new legal drug is in addition to more well-known ones, such as anti-anxiety drugs or alcohol. In France, over the past 20 years, the overall consumption of opioids has tripled. Of the 13 million consumers of opioid painkillers in France, or one in five French people, it is estimated that 17% will become dependent. Today, between 200 and 800 people per year die from an opioid overdose, so it is the leading cause of overdose in our country.

Nadine tried to stop, but generalized pain assailed her. They come from her daily consumption of codeine: in fact, she experiences the characteristic symptoms of withdrawal. “It results in a kind of flu syndrome, with pain throughout the body, tremors, chills and very significant anxieties”, according to doctor Nicolas Authier. Nadine went so far as to take 12 tablets a day. Her husband is sorry: “Sometimes I tell her that she takes too much, but she tells me I’m in pain, I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to die so what to do? “he asks himself.

Tramadol, the most prescribed

Between the obligation to relieve pain and the fear of over-prescribing, doctors are often torn. “When we do not know the patient, we prescribe a week so that he has only one box, except that if he goes to see someone else the following week, he will have another box”, reveals a doctor filmed on hidden camera.

Tramadol is the most prescribed opioid painkiller in France (12.5 million boxes each year), but also the deadliest, according to the National Medicines Safety Agency. Yet five out of six doctors give a prescription to an unknown patient who asks them to give them a prescription …

Zone Interdite, “Drugs, alcohol: these legal drugs that destroy families”, a program broadcast this Sunday, November 21 at 9 pm on M6.

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