Opiates & Us

This comic is screen-reader friendly

Text: A couple of years ago I was working 7 days a week for a horrible boss. It was starting to take its toll. Image: A figure stands next to a moped in an empty supermarket car park. The bright pale blue sky looms large over a bleak industrial landscape.
Text: 20% of adults in the UK suffer from anxiety or depression... Image: We see the figure more closely, he stares blankly ahead, holding a carrier bag in one hand and his phone in the other.
Text: ...mental health services are under-funded... Image: Still staring into space, the man releases one of his clasped hands, causing the carrier bag to fall to the ground, spilling its contents. In his other hand, he has tentatively begun to bring his phone up towards him.
Text: 74% of adults said they'd felt unable to cope in the last year. Image: An old smart phone with a broken screen shows an internet search for 'Am I having a break down?'
Text: People who suffer from anxiety or depression are more likely to suffer from an opiate dependency.  Image: A packet of co-codamol, followed by a packet of Nurofen Plus, pops into the frame. They have big cute eyes and wholesome smiles.
Text: Physical dependence can develop after 3 days of continuous use. Image: The man lies on his bed in boxer shorts and a t-shirt. He holds the little box of co-codamol aloft while the Nurofen Plus sits patiently on his chubby belly. Co-codamol: 'Don't take for more than 3 days in a row!' Man: 'Okie dokie!'
Text: But psychological dependence works differently... Image: In the top half of the frame two blister packs arch their backs as they pop out pills with an orgasmic pleasure. In the bottom half of the frame four excited little pills fly towards a large gaping mouth, undulating with anticipation.
Text: ...if you use opiates to relieve stress and it works... Image: Floating above his bed which seems to pull away from us, we see our guy lying contentedly with his legs outstretched, gazing lazily at the giant poppy now sharing his bed. The poppy lies next to him, with one of their leaves draped tenderly over his chest.
Text: ...every time you do that you reinforce the connection between the opiates and that feeling of relief. Image: A fleshy pictogram of a brain. In the centre it says: 'STRESS! WHAT DO I DO?!?'. Directly connected to this, pulsing with blood and covered in thick veins, is the word: 'OPIATES!'. The connection between the two is thick and veiny. By contrast, the other options: 'Friends, walk, food, meditate, telly, drink', look pale and withered, with some of the connections looking so weak that they might break altogether.
Text: So, even if you only use once a fortnight, if you start thinking about stopping...  Image: Our guy and the poppy lie in bed side-by-side reading. A thought bubble begins to form for our guy and it starts to say: 'Maybe I should...'
Text: ...you might be met with some resistance. Image: The poppy turns to our guy, slamming their crossword book down, and extinguishes the thought bubble saying: 'Don't be ridiculous.'
Text: It doesn't matter how much you take, or in what form you take it. Image: Opiates in various different forms dance and pose. At the back is our co-codamol and Nurofen Plus from before, that's over-the-counter codeine; joining them is a little box of Tramadol, that's prescription painkillers; a little further forward is heroin in both a needle and on a floating sheet of tin foil, and right at the front are two styrofoam cups inside each other splashing out globs of purple liquid as they dance, this is lean (a codeine syrup based sweet drink).
Text: If you're in an unhealthy relationship with opiates, you can get support. Image: Our guy looks unsure as the poppy hugs him from behind whispering: 'Just you and me against the world, sweetpea.'

Advice, Support and Resources


    "20% of adults in the UK suffer from anxiety or depression."
  1. Mental Health Foundation, 'Fundamental Facts About Mental Health 2016.' (2016) p.14 <https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/fundamental-facts-about-mental-health-2016.pdf> [accessed 1 March 2019]

  2. "Mental health services are underfunded."
  3. King's Fund, 'Mental health under pressure' (2015) <https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/default/files/field/field_publication_file/mental-health-under-pressure-nov15_0.pdf> [accessed 1 March 2019]

  4. "74% of adults said they'd felt unable to cope in the past year."
  5. Mental Health Foundation, 'Stress: Are we coping?' (2018) p.7 <https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/stress-are-we-coping> [accessed 1 March 2019]

  6. "People who suffer from anxiety and depression are more likely to develop an opiate dependency."
  7. Mental Health Foundation, 'Fundamental Facts About Mental Health 2016.' (2016) p.55 <https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/fundamental-facts-about-mental-health-2016.pdf> [accessed 1 March 2019]
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse, 'Comorbidity: Addiction and other mental illnesses' (2010) p.2 <https://www.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/rrcomorbidity.pdf> [accessed 1 March 2019]