Deaths related to an addiction to prescription drugs, particularly painkillers like Vicodin, now surpass that of HIV, skin cancer and alcohol-related live disease in the US, researchers are saying.
Authors of the study, which has been published in the British Medical Journal, believe the deaths could be linked to doctors prescribing such painkillers to treat conditions like osteoporosis and not just cancer, for which they are commonly used.
Health experts are now calling for urgent action to tackle the issue, after the number of deaths caused by painkillers increased from approximately 4,000 in 1999 to over 14,000 in 2007.
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Although these figures relate to the US, it is thought almost two million Germans are thought to be addicted to painkillers and there are concerns the UK could face a similar situation.
That’s after a separate study carried out by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Abuse,revealed GPs in the UK were prescribing opioid analgesics increased from 228 million in 1991 to almost 1.4 billion in 2009.
The authors of this ‘Addiction to Medicines’ study said: “The use of strong opioids for chronic non-cancer pain has been described as a “disaster in the making.”
Experts believe the increasingly popular online pharmacies could be facilitating the trend as they do not require a doctor’s prescription.