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The UK fears crisis from potentially addictive drugs

Growing numbers of Britons have received prescriptions for potentially addictive drugs, including opioids, sleeping pills, and other painkillers, increasing the risk of a US-style drug crisis, health officials reported on 9th September.

A report by Public Health England (PHE) said that for the past 10 years, more people have been prescribed these drugs, and are taking them for a longer time.

The PHE analysis found that in 2017/18, about 11.5 million adults in England — over 25% of the adult population — received prescriptions for one or more of the drugs the researchers were reviewing.

The drugs under review included z-drugs (sleeping pills), benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs), pregabalin and gabapentin (epilepsy and anxiety drugs), opioids, and antidepressants.

According to PHE, many of these drugs are addictive and may cause difficulties when people take them or try to end their medication regimen.

The report also found that older people and women were prescribed these drugs more often.

While the number of prescriptions has decreased for some drugs, such as opioids and benzodiazepines, in response to fears raised by the deadly opioid crisis in the US, the number and duration of prescriptions have increased for others, including pregabalin, gabapentin, and some antidepressants, leading to the increased risk of addiction.

The opioid epidemic in the US has resulted in the deaths of almost 500,000 Americans since 1999, and a report issued earlier this year by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned that opioid-related deaths were also increasing in England and Wales.

In response to the PHE report, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said that it intended to take action to tackle the problem.

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