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Pain management health centre

Concerns over painkiller dependency

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
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27th February 2013 - A third of people in the UK who take painkillers are worried about the extent to which they depend on them to manage their daily lives, according to a new survey.

The figures are based on interviews for the not-for-profit healthcare organisation Nuffield Health with 1,659 people who've taken painkillers in the past year. The tablets range from those you can buy over the counter, like aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen to more powerful and potentially addictive prescription only doses of codeine and tramadol.

Clinicians at Nuffield Health believe painkillers are often seen as an easy or cost effective treatment option instead of treating underlying medical problems. 

Incorrect medication

Patients were asked to report pain or injury in the past 12 months, including: spinal pain; muscular skeletal pain, including knee pain, foot and ankle pain and wrist and elbow joint pain; head injury; and migraine.

According to the research, a quarter of those questioned (26%) said they have taken painkillers for five years or more and one in seven admitted to exceeding the recommended daily dose of drugs in order to combat pain.

The survey also found that more than a third (36%) of people using painkillers are taking potentially habit-forming powerful drugs including prescription only tramadol and codeine.  A smaller group (7%) are using even stronger opiates, including morphine and pethidine.

Experts say patients need to be aware of the side-effects of taking painkillers, which can cause sickness, stomach problems, including bleeding or ulcers, constipation, drowsiness or serious medical problems like liver disease, kidney problems and heart disease

Consultant Spinal Surgeon at Nuffield Health Tees Hospital, Mr Manoj Krishna, says in a press release: "A lack of knowledge, or fear of treatment, can lead 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. I regularly see patients who struggle to deal with drug addiction after their medical condition has been successfully treated."

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