Walford, E20 DF118*

I’ve told you all about my brush with dihydrocodeine addiction, and how withdrawal from the same led to the panic and agoraphobia, so when someone said to me, “I know you don’t watch soaps, but so-and-so in Eastenders is taking dihydrocodeine, and it looks like becoming a bit of a thing” my curiosity inevitably pricked.
I saw Monday’s episode, and didn’t think much of it. The character at the centre of it, Dr May Wright, (Albert Square’s current GP) is by all acounts a bit of a cow, and she periodically snarfed a couple of tablets from a prescription that she’d stolen. It seemed a bit excessive given that there’d been no previous evidence of her taking it, but that was it. At the end of Tuesday’s episode however, there was a scene where she was in her flat, pouring a glass of red wine. There was a bottle of tablets on the table, and she opened it and took some. After a vague pause, she tipped the bottle into her hand again, tapped out a few more tablets then took them. You don’t actually see how many tablets she took, but the meaning is clear – it’s more than a normal ‘dose’.
She swallows them dry, then takes a drink from the wine glass. The scene (and the episode) ends after a couple of minutes, so there’s no time to show the potential effects of taking an “over the recommended dose” amount of dihydrocodeine with red wine, but the attitude of the character is flippant, and at no time is any impression given that she has technically overdosed. The perception is that she is taking them for the sheer hell of it, and she doesn’t appear to have any qualms about it at all.
Of course, given my history, I’m bound to feel a little ‘icky’ about this. Maybe it was inevitable that I’d think the programme makers irresponsible. Maybe I worry that people will think chugging back several dihydrocodeine with wine is okay, and maybe that’s overreacting a bit. Maybe the next episode will show her in a dazed and confused state with a raging headache and massive regrets – although ‘spoiler’ websites don’t seem to indicate that will be the case. I don’t know, though. I still worry that what happened to me could happen to someone else. I know how easy it is to get addicted to opiate analgesics, and I sure as hell know the nightmare of recovering from that addiction.
Honestly, I know it’s only telly, I know the programme makers need to have a little dramatic licence to make a storyline work, and in this case, the drama is exacerbated by the suddenness of its onset. I’ve heard that programme makers ‘speed up’ the natural progression of events to keep the audience’s interest – but isn’t it a little bit stupid to name the drug then treat its use with such disdain?
Of course, the story hasn’t reached its conclusion yet. I’ll keep watching to see what happens, but I’ll bet anything she doesn’t have that hangover.
*E20 is the fictional postcode used in Eastenders, DF118 is another name for dihydrocodeine.
edit, 11th May:
Well, of course she didn’t have a hangover. The first scene she’s in, she’s doing an early morning house call and looks as fresh as a daisy. Bah.

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