Addictions researcher, Dr Sally Marlow, investigates fears that easy access to powerful painkillers could be creating a large, but hidden problem of addiction. Painkillers are widely available over the counter, and combinations containing codeine, which is addictive, can be purchased from pharmacists and on the internet.
Teenager, Alice, tells Sally about secretly buying huge numbers of painkillers on her way to school while she was wearing her school uniform. She used her lunch money to buy multiple packs from several stores, switching shops when she was questioned by pharmacists. And Steve describes how his serious codeine addiction began after treating tooth pain with the drug. The side effects helped his anxiety and for years he was doctoring tablets in order to increase his codeine intake.
Some health professionals believe easy access is fuelling a potential health crisis and say those with serious dependency problems, are hidden below the healthcare radar. Only a tiny perc