“Nobody controls it”: That’s how easy it is to get painkillers in Germany

We get to know Melanie. Years ago she was hit by a car and seriously injured. She has been in pain since that cycling accident. How does that feel? She describes it like this: “It’s like having someone skin you alive.” The woman is quickly prescribed opioids by a doctor to combat her suffering. Later she is surprised: “I was not informed about the dangers of addiction.” On the contrary: “No one checks it, and the next prescription has already been issued again.” Melanie doesn’t want to admit it to herself at first, but she has long been an addict. Her husband says today: “She was absent, like dead inside.” Her daughter, who was 14 at the time, was suffering mentally and didn’t know how to deal with the situation: “My mother was a completely different person.”

Germany in dependence? Prescriptions are issued quickly

1.6 million Germans are permanently dependent on painkillers, and 170,000 people are addicted to opioids. For Fabio, now 21, drugs are the way out of emotional coldness in the family. When he was eleven years old, his mother no longer wanted to look after him and his younger siblings. At some point he ends up in a foster family and is regularly beaten there. He takes painkillers with codeine, which a doctor prescribes for him without much question. Soon that will no longer be enough for him. He starts smoking heroin.

Just don’t show any weakness – rather increase the tablet dose

Klaus is a former tennis instructor and tour operator. At some point the joints will no longer cooperate. Too much sport, too extreme. Today he says: “I wasn’t allowed to show any weaknesses. And I always thought: you are indestructible.” He takes pills for the pain, and at some point alcohol is added. The more roar, the better. It has to work, that’s what he tells himself: “If you’re independent, you have no other choice.” The pain doesn’t go away despite the high dose. “It’s like sticking a knitting needle in my knee.”

Cold turkey and a “clean birthday”

The ZDF documentary shows the crash of three people – and at the same time gives hope for a change in life. Although Klaus lost his apartment and company, he received a donor liver and can play moderate tennis again. Melanie went cold turkey without medical supervision, went through hell – and came back to life with the help of her family. Fabio celebrates his “clean birthday”. And he says: “A year without drugs – the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.”

Jean Harris

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