MORE than half a million Brits are hooked on dangerously addictive painkillers, an inquiry has revealed.
Five million a year — 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.
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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.”
“Painkillers have an important role in pain management, but when not used properly they can destroy lives.”
Statistics have shown the drugs have been responsible for 91,000 deaths in the United States of America in the past two years.
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