Painkiller use has doubled in the last 15 years
A study of 50,000 NHS patients carried out by the Public Health Research Consortium has revealed that powerful painkiller use has doubled in the last 15 years. In 2015, 5% of patients were receiving regular prescriptions for the likes of opioids. This is a 50% increase compared to 2000.
The research looked at people who have been prescribed at least one of four types of potentially addictive drugs (dependence forming medicines) between 2000 and 2015. As well as finding that an increasing number of people are being prescribed these medications, it was also discovered that the strength of the painkillers being prescribed is increasing too.
The researchers found that 1 in 20 people are being prescribed potentially addictive painkillers such as tramadol, codeine and morphine. What’s more, these drugs are being prescribed for longer periods of time, which is particularly concerning, given that long-term use leads to increased risk of painkiller addiction while greatly reducing the benefits of the medication.
Why is painkiller use dangerous?
There’s a common misconception that painkillers are perfectly safe. When something can be acquired at a supermarket, over-the-counter at a pharmacy, or be prescribed by a doctor, we assume that there are no dangers involved.
Studies consistently reveal that we view prescription drugs as being much safer than the likes of heroin and cocaine. However, when misused, these drugs can be just as harmful as illegal substances.
Other examples of dangerous use can involve people mixing painkillers with alcohol, and continuing to use pain relief even once the initial pain has become manageable.
What are the signs of painkiller addiction?
The most common signs of painkiller addiction include:
- Constantly thinking about and being preoccupied with your medication, when you can take your next dose, and whether your supply is enough
- Not following your doctor’s advice, for example, by taking your medication more often than you should. If you are in a lot of pain, always speak to your doctor before changing your dosage
- Your doctor is refusing to prescribe you any more pills or you’re starting to become conscious about how often you request a prescription
- Seeking access to medication from other sources, either by buying it online, using other people’s prescriptions, or stealing
- Being unable to stop taking certain medication. While some conditions require long-term medication, others don’t. For example, you shouldn’t need to continue taking pain relief for a broken bone that healed six months ago
- No longer taking care of yourself or your personal hygiene, mood swings, anger and irritability, neglecting responsibilities and disturbed sleeping and eating habits are all additional signs of addiction