Painkiller study to avoid addiction epidemic

A review is to be carried out into the growing problem of prescription drug addiction.

The prescribing of “addictive medicines” has increased 3% over five years in England with one patient in every 11 was prescribed a potentially addictive drug last year.

Public health minister Steve Brine, who commissioned Public Health England (PHE) to carry out the survey said: “We know this is a huge problem in other countries like the United States and we must absolutely make sure it doesn’t become one here.

“While we are world-leading in offering free treatment for addiction, we cannot be complacent. That’s why I’ve asked PHE to conduct this review.

The US is in the grip of an opioid addiction epidemic.

In 2015 alone there were 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription painkillers.

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The PHE review will examine why:

  • Prescribing of “addictive medicines” has increased 3% over five years.
  • 8.9% of patients were prescribed one of these medicines last year.
  • Antidepressant prescriptions in England have more than doubled in the past 10 years.

It will also consider the number of adults taking prescription-only painkillers not prescribed to them.

A recent poll suggested the figure may be as high as 7.6%.

The review will look at benzodiazepines and z-drugs, pregabalin and gabapentin, opioid pain medicines and antidepressants and make recommendations on how to address the issue of dependency.

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Rosanna O’Connor, director of drugs, alcohol and tobacco at PHE, said: “It is of real concern that so many people find themselves dependent on or suffering withdrawal symptoms from prescribed medicines.

“Many will have sought help for a health problem only to find later on they have a further obstacle to overcome.”