BRITAIN has become a nation of pill poppers — with doctors dishing out painkillers, sleeping tablets and anti-depressants to one in four adults.
Shock figures reveal the number of patients prescribed the pills rose alarmingly to 11.5million last year
A review by Public Health England found around one in four adults had the pills, with women 50 per cent more likely to be prescribed them.
About 13 per cent of adults, one in eight, were given potentially addictive opioid painkillers. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “incredibly concerned” by the rising trend.
He added: “The disturbing findings, especially that one in eight adults are taking super-strength, addictive opioid painkillers, proves to me that we are in the grip of an over-medication crisis.
“To be clear, the entire health care system will now be involved in making sure we put an end to this.”
Drug experts said many pills are being prescribed over too long a period — reducing their effectiveness and increasing addiction risks.
The PHE figures for 2017/18 show half of the 11.5million patients were given drugs for at least a year and up to a third for three years or more. Only anti-depressants are suitable for long-term use.
Psychopharmacologist Dr David Healy, a professor at the University of Wales, said: “Too many people are being given a short-term fix that turns into a long-term problem.
“The risk is we are being turned into a zombie nation stuck on pills that numb us.”
PHE director Rosanna O’Connor said: “Most worrying for us is the prescribing beyond the guidelines — where longer term use is ineffective and we know they are highly addictive and people will have problems stopping them. It is a bit of a wake-up call.”
The review recommends ministers set up a helpline for the millions stuck on potentially addictive drugs. GPs were also urged by PHE to prescribe fewer pills and offer drug-free alternative therapies.
MOST READ IN HEALTH NEWS
However, officials urged the public not to stop taking their drugs but to raise any concerns with their GP.
The review looked at benzodiazepines, such as diazepam, Z-drugs, such as zopiclone for insomnia, gabapentinoids, such as pregabalin, opioid painkillers and anti-depressants. It found usage had risen from 11.3million two years earlier.
Opioids are used to treat moderate to severe pain after an accident or surgery. Gabapentinoids ease nerve pain caused by conditions such as shingles or diabetes.
A FIGHT TO COPE
ARABELLA Tresilian, 44, from Bath, has experienced problems associated with withdrawal.
She said: “I struggled on and off anti-depressants for more than 20 years, juggling work and family life at the same time.
“In 2015, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic fatigue.
Day-to-day activities were overwhelming and I quickly began to feel isolated.
“I was very lucky that my doctor offered social prescribing, which made all the difference.
“They referred me to a local choir, which helped me recover and gave me back confidence.”
GRANDAD Steve Beamish got hooked on opioid painkillers after he took them for a decade.
Steve, 64, was first prescribed opioid fentanyl in patches to combat chronic leg and back pain.
The patches were then replaced with ten morphine pills a day.
The retired auditor, of Lowes-toft, Suffolk, was also prescribed sleeping pills and anti-depressants.
He had to be weaned off the drugs after his doctor told him: “You’re a junkie.”
Steve now uses non-addictive painkillers and has physiotherapy, which he says has made “a world of difference”.
- GOT a story? Ring The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or email [email protected]