Britain risks US-style opioid crisis as FIVE million adults get prescriptions

By | September 9, 2019

Britain risks US-style opioid crisis as FIVE million adults get prescriptions for highly addictive drugs every year, reveals government health body

  • Five million adults a year receive prescriptions for the addictive painkillers 
  • Public Health England conducted the inquiry which found ‘alarming’ results  
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the findings as ‘shocking’ 
  • Opioids are dangerously addictive and can kill but are used to treat chronic pain  

An ‘alarming’ number of adults are hooked on dangerously addictive prescription opioids. 

Five million adults a year receive prescriptions for the painkillers in Britain with one in eight of the population dependent on the drugs.

Ministers ordered an inquiry into the scale of the addiction with fears of a US-style opioid crisis, with the UK at the third fastest-growing rate of opioid use. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the findings were ‘shocking’ with more than 40 million prescriptions handed out every year, according to The Sunday Times.  

The Public Health England investigation found 540,000 people have been on opioids for at least three years, despite advice that the pills should only be taken for days or weeks. 

Five million adults a year receive prescriptions for opioids in Britain with one in eight of the population dependent on the drugs

Five million adults a year receive prescriptions for opioids in Britain with one in eight of the population dependent on the drugs 

The findings were considered ‘serious’ and ‘quite frankly alarming’ according to sources familiar with the PHE investigation. 

Mr Hancock said: ‘We have seen the devastation opioid addiction has caused in America and I am determined to tackle it head on before it goes any further here. 

‘Painkillers have an important role in pain management, but when not used properly they can destroy lives.’ 

In April, the health secretary announced plans to introduce ‘cigarette-style’ warnings on opioid packaging to tackle addiction. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced plans in April for 'cigarette-style' packaging on opioid packaging

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced plans in April for ‘cigarette-style’ packaging on opioid packaging 

A development of guidelines for GPs on prescribing opioids and how to ease patients off them have been announced by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence watchdog, however medical organisations and patients say more must be done. 

PHE is expected to reveal the extent of dependency on other prescription drugs such as anti-anxiety medication and recommendations to tackle the issue when it publishes its report this week. 

British Medical Association, Dr Andrew Green, said: ‘We need significant investment in support services to enable patients and GPs to manage dependencies.’ 

Dr Green added there was an urgent need to help patients struggling with an addiction. 

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence watchdog is set to announce a set of guidelines for GPS on prescribing opioids

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence watchdog is set to announce a set of guidelines for GPS on prescribing opioids 

Opiods produce morphine-like effects and are prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain 

They block pain signals between the brain and the body and common opioids include coedine and tramadol. 

Opioids have been used effectively for the treatment cancer but in the past decade prescriptions on the NHS for long term pain have rocketed.      

Health News | Mail Online