Recent figures further confirm that the common perception that prescription painkillers are perfectly harmless and safe is very much untrue. In fact, addiction to these substances is becoming such a problem that more Britons are dying from taking them that they are from heroin and cocaine.
In 2013 there were 807 fatal overdoses which involved prescription drugs which was a 16% rise compared to the previous five years. In comparison, 718 deaths were caused as a result of taking heroin and cocaine - a number which has continued to fall since 2005.
NHS statistics also show that around 62 million prescriptions were written for all types of painkillers in the same year which is an incredible 30% increase since 2008. Additionally, Britons spend an estimated £500 million every year buying painkillers at chemists.
With an estimated 32,000 painkiller addicts in Britain, experts are now warning GPs to stop giving out repeat prescriptions so easily. Jim Dobbin, a Chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on involuntary tranquilliser addiction commented:
“This can be long-term addiction and there is very little support for addicts. There needs to be more understanding of how serious this problem is. Lives are being destroyed and people are being left without the help and support they need.”
Some healthcare professionals feel that medication is being used to help patients deal with depression, anxiety or pain all too often and that more of a focus should be placed on counselling as a long-term solution. What makes this problem particularly worrying is the fact that some of the painkillers that GPs are prescribing are a staggering 50 times more addictive than heroin - yet patients aren’t being given any warning about this.
With the number of painkiller prescriptions continuing to rise, the UK could face a huge influx of new addicts. This would put pressure on the NHS and require a whole new way of looking at pain management.