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Addiction warnings to be put on opioid painkillers.

Byline: TESS DE LA MARE Reporter

OPIOID painkillers will soon have to carry a prominent warning about the risk of addiction in a bid to tackle growing concerns around prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

Prescriptions for opioid-based medication have increased by 60% in the last 10 years to 23 million annually, according to Department of Health data.

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The drugs, derived from opium, have a sedative effect and can cause feelings of pleasure.

A long-term dependency on prescription drugs can have life-changing consequences and similar side effects to illegal drugs.

Users can build up a tolerance and require stronger doses to have the same effect, and suffer withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.

Although considerably lower-risk than illegal street opioids like heroin, an overdose of prescription painkillers can still kill the user.

A number of high-profile figures have admitted a dependency on prescription drugs, notably North East TV presenter Ant McPartlin.

McPartlin has been open about his stints in rehab trying to tackle his addiction to painkillers, which began following a knee operation in 2015.

The prescription opioid crisis in the US is now so severe that in 2017 the country's Department of Health declared a national emergency.

It estimated that by 2017, 11.4 million people in the country were misusing prescription painkillers. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday that packaging on common medications such as morphine or fentanyl will now have to carry a warning informing patients about the risk of addiction.

Dependence on the drug can have devastating consequences for the user.

Mr Hancock said: "I have been incredibly concerned by the recent increase in people addicted to opioid drugs. Painkillers were a major breakthrough in modern medicine - but must be treated with caution.

"We know that too much of any painkiller can damage your health, and some opioids are highly addictive and can ruin lives like an illegal drug.

"Things are not as bad here as in America, but we must act now to protect people from the darker side to painkillers.

"We need to place a greater focus on making sure that these medicines are used appropriately and for pain management alone, and make sure people are fully aware of the risks."

Prof Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, said: "We know that long-term use of painkillers can lead to life-altering and sometimes fatal addictions - so I am delighted to see measures put in place to raise awareness of the risks of codeine and prescribed drugs.

"It is vital that anyone who is prescribed strong painkillers takes them only as long as they are suffering from serious pain. As soon as the pain starts to alleviate, it is important to switch to over-the-counter medication like paracetamol."

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 29, 2019
Words:453
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