Brits Worry about Addiction to Painkillers

Brits Worry about Addiction to Painkillers

bigstock-Young-Blond-Woman-With-Medicin-12068330Over a third of the pain patients in the United Kingdom say they need pain medicine just to be able to work and many worry about becoming addicted to painkillers, according to a study by Nuffield Health, the UK’s largest healthcare charity.

In a survey of over 3,000 people in the UK, more than half (54%) said they had taken painkillers in the past year to manage pain or injury. Thirty-three percent of those taking pain medication said they were concerned about becoming addicted and 37% said they needed painkillers simply to continue working.

“It is concerning that four in ten people taking painkillers are reliant on them to continue working,” said Cabella Lowe, Professional Head of Physiotherapy for Nuffield Health. “We believe more people could alleviate their pain by seeing a physiotherapist and improve their home and working lives.”

One out of seven people taking painkillers admitted they exceed the recommended daily dose to control their pain. Over one in four (26%) said they have been taking pain medication for five years or more.

Nuffield researchers say it all adds up to a worrying trend – frequent and long term use of pain medicines is common. And painkillers are seen as an easy or cost effective treatment option instead of treating the underlying medical problem.

“A lack of information about treatment options can lead some patients into long term use of painkillers often without a clear diagnosis by a specialist. Often this results in people becoming dependent on some of these medicines which can lead to depression or problems with relationships or work,” said Dr. Andy King, a pain management consultant for Nuffield Health.

“With advances in medicine there are many new treatment options available and it is important that patients explore these options fully. Physiotherapy, acupuncture, injections and even surgery may be more appropriate.”

The survey uncovered several reasons why people were not satisfied with their pain management:

  • Less than two-thirds sought treatment from a doctor.
  • 16% of those who saw a doctor were unhappy with the outcome.
  • 25% thought their doctor lacked knowledge about their condition.
  • 32% said prescribed painkillers didn’t work.

“A lack of knowledge, or fear about treatment can lead some patients into long term use of painkillers, often without a clear diagnosis by a specialist. This can be a very bleak existence with patients becoming depressed, losing their jobs, and often becoming dependent on the drugs,” said Dr. Manoj Krishna, a spinal surgeon at Nuffield Heath.

“I regularly see patients who struggle to deal with drug addiction after their medical condition has been successfully treated.”

Failure to find an effective pain treatment often leads to other long term problems. Forty percent of those still in pain said they had sleeping problems, 40% said they were unable to exercise and 16% said they suffered from depression.


Authored by: Pat Anson, Editor