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.

7 thoughts on “Walford, E20 DF118*

  1. jack of speed says:

    This is quite interesting. I’m interested in the lethal dose for the drug, I was astonished to discover how many Diazepam someone needed to take to do themselves harm. It’s quite a different matter to how many and often you need to take soemthing to become adicted mind you.
    Also I can vouch for the fact that some people shake these things off better than others. The missus shook off 75mg of diazepam and 50mg of zopiclone in about 3 hours, when the doctors had said she’d sleep for 20.
    I’m not sure what my point is though. Probably that the subject is far to complex for the media to ever deal with it entirely successfully.

  2. domino says:

    I remember the first time I took dihydrocodeine. I took one tablet (30mg) and was completely out for the count. Tolerence for meds does vary massively, and I think with Eastenders it was just irresponsible to show it like this. Maybe the people who can tolerate it well are in a minority, I don’t know.
    You’re right, though – this is too big for the media, and the character taking meds just seems to be one bit of a bigger story.

  3. Mary says:

    The average completely uninformed Eastenders-watcher is probably just thinking “ooh, she’s taking more of them pills than what she should, that’s a bit dodgy, and her being a doctor n’all.” Hopefully no one is going to sit there with their own bottle of pills and say “well, her off the telly didn’t have any problems, and she’s a DOCTOR.”
    My guess is that she’ll be doing it for a while and everything going swimmingly before one of her patients/neighbours/random person in street notices, and tells her off about it in an incredibly high-emotion scene that may involve one of those glasses of red wine being thrown against the wall in dramatic fashion.
    After a few more episodes – up to three months sometimes – with bits like this, she’ll admit that she has a problem and seek help. Help is likely to (a) involve no waiting lists for some incredibly effective mental health treatment that will have her fighting fit and ticketyboo within a week, OR (b) involve her going somewhere, anywhere, AWAY – after all, a character going nowhere and speaking to no one for a couple of years is hardly going to earn scriptwriters a bonus.
    *bangs head against wall*

  4. domino says:

    Well, according to Digital Spy (spoiler) it won’t be too long before she’s confronted, but looks like backfiring on the confronter.
    I’m looking at this far too seriously, I know. And you’re right – if she does have counselling or something, it’ll be immediately, and there’ll be no GMC involvement and she won’t be disciplined or anything. Oh no. Anyway, I’m betting she’ll have some tragic cummupance that has nothing to do with dihydrocodeine.

  5. You know, that’s exactly why I had to stop working in telly. The tawdry, gratuitous irresponsibility of grabbing viewer’s attention got me down so much, I still don’t OWN a telly four years later.
    I worked for an agency that represented scriptwriters for Holby City, Emmerdale, At Home with the Braithewaites, and the like. Obviously I had to watch the programmes as well. I started to feel like the grittier and more violent the rape you could finangle showing to the tv-dinner-chewing hordes, the more awards you got – and that was the point, not whether you had anything interesting or artistically valid to say.
    It may interest you to know that Eastenders insist on more script re-drafts than any other soap – most request up to 4, Easties can require up to 14. And it’s still a pile of ghastly, inaccurate bobbins.

  6. scorpion says:

    How do you know she is taking dihydrocodeine?

  7. domino says:

    Hi Scorpion, there was an ep where you saw a close up of the bottle, and the nurse at the practice asked about “Mrs Patel’s Dihydrocodeine prescription”

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