Mental Health
Guide

Alarm One in four are Prescribed addictive drugs

Lesson 1

Doctors have warned of the dangers of addictive drugs as it emerged that almost 12 million adults were prescribed habit-form­ing medications last year.

Half had been taking the medi­cines for more than a year, a Public Health England report found.


A Government-ordered review of five classes of drug found some patients later struggled to come off them and suffered suicidal thoughts and anxiety.

Experts last night called for the NHS to step up efforts to ensure people do not become dependent.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "This review is a wake-up call. To be clear: the entire healthcare system will now be involved in mak­ing sure that we put an end to this once and for all."


More than one in four adults in England were prescribed benzodiaz­epines or Z-drugs for insomnia and anxiety, gabapentinoids for nerve pain, opioid painkillers or antide­pressants in the year to March 2018.

Many had been on the drugs for at least three years.


While prescriptions for three classes of drugs fell, between 2016 and 2018, prescrip­tions for antidepressants increased 10 per cent and the number of people on gabapentinoids rose by a fifth.


Prescribing rates were highest in areas, such as the North-east, and women were 1.5 times more likely to receive the drugs than men. Prof Paul Cosford, emeritus medical director at PHE, said: "When people are started on the drugs, it's in line with clinical guidance. 


"What you see is that a propor­tion of those people then find it very difficult to withdraw and end up on a long-term prescription." The report recommended over­hauling guidelines and training GPs to ensure they prescribe potentially addictive drugs correctly.


But it warned against blanket limits on prescribing, as this could drive patients to seek drugs from dangerous sources.  It also said patients should be given more information about the risks and alternatives such as social prescribing or talking therapies should be considered. 


Prof Claire Anderson, chair­woman of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in England, said the medi­cines "are also associated with dependence and risk of harm".


She said: "Patients with pain, mental health issues and anxiety want to be free of them. But often the long-term answer doesn't lie in the prescription pad."


In a recent report, half a million Brits are hooked on dangerously addictive painkillers, an inquiry has revealed.

Five million a year and one in eight of the adult population have taken prescription opioids,

Public Health England researchers have found.


They should be prescribed only for days or weeks because they can kill when misused. But the research shows that 540,000 patients have been on opioids for at least three years.

The scale of drug use was exposed in the major review into addiction.   In all, 141 million prescriptions were issued for opioids last year, up from 89 million in 2008.


Doctors dish out the drugs to treat chronic pain, despite them often being only as effective as placebos.

Those on the "dependence-forming medicines" are typically female and in their 50s and 60s.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has previously announced that opioid packets must carry prominent cigarette-style warnings about addiction.


With the full review to be published this week, he said: "We have seen the devastation opioid addiction has caused in America. I am determined to tackle it head-on before it goes any further here."

In a recent report, than half a million Brits are hooked on danger­ously addictive painkillers, an inquiry has revealed.

Five million a year and one in eight of the adult population have taken prescription opioids, Public Health England researchers have found.

They should be prescribed only for days or weeks because they can kill when misused. But the research shows that 540,000 patients have been on opioids for at least three years.


The scale of drug use was    exposed    in the major review into addiction.  

In all, 141 million prescriptions were issued for opioids last year, up from 89 million in 2008.

Doctors dish out the drugs to treat chronic pain, despite them often being only as effective as placebos.


Those on the "dependence-forming medicines" are typically female and in their 50s and 60s.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has previously announced that opioid packets must carry prominent cigar­ette-style warnings about addiction.

With the full review to be published this week, he said: "We have seen the devastation opioid addiction has caused in America. I am deter­mined to tackle it head-on before it goes any further here."

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