By Ian Randall For Mailonline
Published: 19:00 BST, 15 October 2020 | Updated: 19:00 BST, 15 October 2020
Prescriptions of opioid medications have dramatically increased in the UK — with usage of codeine, for example, having risen five-fold in the last decade.
The findings by experts from Manchester raise fears that the UK could soon face an addiction crisis — similar to the one currently taking place in the US.
The team studied the prescription of opioids — used to treat pain — among 2 million patients. They found rising use of less common drugs like tramadol and oxycodone.
Furthermore, the data showed that one-in-seven patients with first-time opioid prescriptions went on to become long-term users.
While short-term opioid usage is safe, long-term use can lead to not only addiction but also conditions including depression, anxiety and liver/kidney damage.
The team identified three regions of the UK that appear associated with a higher risk of long-term opioid use — the North-West, the South-West and Yorkshire.
Around a quarter of GP practices were associated with a high proportion of long-term opioid use among their patients.
Some experts have argued that the rising uptake of opioid medications and their long-term use is primarily being driven by the prescribing behaviour of physicians.
However, other researchers contended that the increase is merely a reflection of the actual needs of the patient population.
Individuals taking opioids should consult with their physician before ceasing their course of medication.
Prescriptions of opioid medications have dramatically increased in the UK — with usage of codeine, for example, having risen five-fold in the last decade (stock image)
The researchers studied around 2 million patients prescribed opioids in a primary care setting.
Codeine increased five-fold, from 484 prescriptions per 10,000 in 2006 to 2,456 per 10,000 in 2017.
Oxycodone usage increased 30-fold from 5 per 10,000 in 2006 to 169 per 10,000 in 2017.
Tramadol prescriptions increased seven-fold from 101 per 10,000 in 2006 to 690 per 10,000 in 2017.
'The opioid crisis in the US is well-known and well researched, however it has been unclear how the UK compares,' said paper author and epidemiologist Meghna Jani, of the University of Manchester.
'These figures show that UK prescribing of opioids, especially codeine has increased considerably in recent years, while others such as tramadol have started to plateau.'
'All opioids have a potential for dependence and addiction, a fact that has been highlighted by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory