Growing issue of prescription drug addiction examined

Public Health England is starting a review of the growing issue of prescription drug addiction.

NHS information indicate that medications are prescribed for one in every 11 patients in England that might be addictive or hard to get off. Sedatives, painkillers and anti-depressants are included in this.

PHE intends to prevent a scenario like that in the US, where opioid addiction has increased massively.


The evaluation that’s going to take one year will cover:

  • Sedatives and anti-anxiety medications, zolpidem and zopiclone, also known as benzodiazepines and z-drugs
  • Opioid, pregabalin and gabapentin (the latter two are also used for epilepsy) painkillers
  • Antidepressants


While antidepressants are not addictive, some patients have trouble trying to stop taking them. Prescribing addictive medications, sedatives and painkillers has risen by 3 percent over five years, according to GP data for England suggests.

Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: "We know this is a huge problem in other countries like the U.S. and we must absolutely make sure it doesn't become one here. While we are world-leading in offering free treatment for addiction, we cannot be complacent.”

Rosanna O’Connor, director of drugs, alcohol and tobacco at PHE, said: "It is of real concern that so many people find themselves dependent on or suffering withdrawal symptoms from prescribed medicines. Many will have sought help for a health problem only to find later on they have a further obstacle to overcome."


Experts say many prescriptions are suitable, and without talking to their doctor, individuals should not come off their medication.