Steep Rise in Opioid Painkiller Overdoses

Steep Rise in Opioid Painkiller Overdoses

Nearly 500,000 Americans have died in recent years as a result of opioid-related overdoses from OxyContin and similar drugs. The US is still in the grip of a crisis of drug dependency that is going to take a long time to fix.

In the UK, we have also seen a steep rise in opioid-related overdoses. In the last decade, hospitals have seen the number of patients who were admitted for overdosing on opioid painkillers more than double. Doctors state that the results show a very worrying trend.  Many claim that these strong and potentially habit-forming drugs are being over-prescribed.

Poisoning from prescription opioids like fentanyl, codeine, oxycodone and morphine increased, according to NHS data, from 4,891 in 2005-2006 to 11,660 in England last year.

This is a very concerning rise, but the figures did not differentiate between those people with addiction taking drugs not prescribed to them and those who had a prescription but accidentally overdosed.

Rise in Opioid Painkiller Overdose Admissions

Since 2005 opioid poisoning admissions increased every year for the past decade, with a peak in 2013-14 of 12,254. It dropped in 2015 but then increased last year to over 11,660. Keep in mind that tramadol was only put on the admission data list in 2012.

During the same timeframe, opioid prescriptions have increased steeply but at a slightly lower rate. The number prescribed increased from 12m in 2006 to 24 in 2016. This increase in the use of opioid drugs like tramadol and codeine is very concerning.

The increase in patient admissions for poisoning might be correlated to the increase in prescriptions. Another reason could be the increase in the online purchase of drugs.

What about Tramadol?

Tramadol is the important drug here. Admissions spiked when they are added to the statistics in 2012. It is the most prescribed opiate painkiller and the number of prescriptions has significantly increased in the past few years. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, it is listed as a class C drug and has been used by street drug addicts and sometimes recreationally to boost the effects of alcohol.

Doctors have indicated that painkillers are being over-prescribed and recent numbers show that over 192,000 people in the UK have become dependent on these kinds of drugs as a result.

Since 1999 in the US, the deaths from overdoses of opioids like methadone, oxycodone and hydrocodone have more than quadrupled. There is a correlation between the deaths and the increase prescriptions of these drugs, even though there is no decrease in the amount of pain reported by Americans.

Photo Credit: “my back has caught up with the rest of m” (CC BY 2.0) by frankieleon

Zoom Testing is a leading UK drug testing company and a supplier of Drug Test Kits.

This post was originally published in September 2017 and has been updated regularly since.

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