I almost died after being over prescribed oxycodone. My passion is to now do all I can to make sure no one else ever has to suffer how I suffered.

After being prescribed everything, including eventually oxycodone over a period of eight years for a back injury, my tolerance spiralled and I became addicted. 

I was prescribed 800mgs of oxycodone per day, but was soon taking double that amount. I would tell endless lies to my GP to get my prescription early, and I always got it. I turned into someone even I didn’t recognise and I hated myself, but I didn’t care, just as long as I could get oxycodone.

When I finally woke up to what was happening to me after researching and finding out what oxycodone was, I was left to struggle alone after being turned away by four drug and alcohol clinics due to them not being funded to help prescription medication addiction patients. My GP didn’t know what to do with me.

After tapering and doing well initially, I soon hit a brick wall, and due to the lack of help and support, I almost took my own life.

I lost my job as a successful operations manager for the company where I had worked for twenty-six years, my driving license was revoked, I had severe central sleep apnoea, and I was diagnosed with severely low vitamin B12, folate, macrocytic anemia and pernicious anemia. 

The drug treatment clinic that first turned me away eventually agreed to help me by prescribing methadone. This in itself was a struggle until I was titrated to the correct dose which meant weeks of constant withdrawal, at which point I actually went looking for a heroin dealer as I couldn’t take anymore. Thankfully I didn’t find one, but I almost took my life again due to the severe mental health issues I was suffering with due to how opiates rewire neurons and neurotransmitters. Eventually, after many weeks of suffering I became stable on 105 mls of methadone per day.

I have been oxycodone-free five years now, and methadone-free over two years. I have my driving license back and my sleep apnoea is no longer a problem. I am being treated for pernicious anemia, which has also caused peripheral neuropathy, but my mental health has never been better.

The research I have done over the last six years on the neurobiology of addiction has taught me all about how certain drugs effect not only our brain, but many other parts of the body.

My passion is to now work alongside GPs, to educate and raise awareness of just what certain medications do, particularly the dangers if tapered too quickly or stopped abruptly; to support the many patients to try to prevent them getting to the stage I did; and to support those who are already there.

I am now a SMART Recovery facilitator where I run groups through Zoom for the 400 plus people on my new Facebook group. SMART Recovery is CBT based which is a well-known  psychosocial intervention.

There is still a lack of much needed support in the UK for the many thousands who find themselves where I was – addicted to prescription medication. Many on my group have had their medication stopped, leaving them with no alternative but to turn to on-line suppliers or street drugs, both of which are very dangerous alternatives with many laced with fentanyl.

So much more needs to be done to raise awareness and to educate, and to support the many thousands in the UK that are feeling lost, alone and not knowing what to do.

My passion is to try to change that to end the suffering of so many.

Paul Hemsil