From paracetamol to co-codamol, 24 million opioid prescriptions were given out in the UK in 2016, which is double that of just 10 years ago.
Europe's overall overdose deaths also rose for the third consecutive year in 2015 to 8,441; 81 per cent of which were related to opioids.
Now new research from the largest study of its kind reveals patients taking painkillers alongside medication for heart disease, stroke or diabetes are 95 per cent more likely to become obese as the sedative drugs make people inactive and affect their metabolism.
Earlier this year TV presenter Ant McPartlin from the duo Ant & Dec opened up about his addiction to prescription painkillers after injuring his knee two years ago.
Now sober, the I'm A Celebrity presenter was told by his doctor he could have died after consuming copious amounts of opioid-based painkillers washed down with alcohol.
Opioids, which often lead to addicts experimenting with illegal substances such as heroin, have caused more deaths by accidental overdose than any other drug in US history, leading to President Trump declaring the epidemic a national public health emergency in October.
From paracetamol to co-codamol, 24 million opioid prescriptions were given out in 2016
According to the study, the following opioid drugs cause obesity, a 'very high risk' waist circumference and elevated blood pressure in people taking drugs for heart disease, stroke or diabetes:Morphine sulphate tablets Tramadol Paracetomol + Tramadol Oramorph Co-codamol Codydramol (paracetamol + dihydrocodeine) Fentanyl patch Buprenorphine
How the new research was carried out
Researchers from the University of Newcastle analysed 133,401 people taking drugs for diabetes, heart disease or stroke.
Of which, 7,423 participants were also prescribed medication, including opioids, for chronic pain for conditions such as migraines and lower-back discomfort.
The participants were asked about their smoking status, alcohol intake, activity levels and average hours of sleep a night.
Painkillers increase the risk of obesity by up to 95%
Results reveal people taking painkillers alongside drugs for heart disease, diabetes and stroke are 95 per cent more likely to