Shock number of Doncaster patients hooked on prescription pills like high-strength painkillers and antidepressants

Doncaster has tens of thousands of people hooked on prescription drugs including high-strength painkillers and antidepressants, shock new figures show.

Wednesday, 2nd October 2019, 6:09 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th October 2019, 7:22 pm
A bottle of anti-depressant pills. (Photo Illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Government figures show over 64,000 residents were prescribed drugs such as opioid pain relief like codeine, gabpentinoids for neuropathic pain, benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanex for anxiety and panic attacks, and so-called Z-drugs which are commonly used for sleep disorders.

Of that figure, 40,000 people – equating to 62 per cent – were on a repeat prescription for at least 12 months described as ‘very worrying’ by rehabilitation experts.

Doncaster health bosses have admitted there is a problem and are said to be working on different methods to bring dependency down.

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Many people are reliant on prescription drugs in Doncaster. Picture: Stock

On the back of the publication of prescription medication data, Public Health England has said they will launch a full review.

UK Addiction Treatment - a group of rehabs which treat patients for prescription drug addiction - has welcomed the review and hopes that it will serve as a ‘serious wake up call’.

Nuno Albuquerque, group treatment lead at UKAT, said: “This report shows us that thousands of people living across South Yorkshire are crying out for help, and unfortunately, they’re being given plasters in the form of pills to solve their problems.

“There is no doubt that in the short-term, these drugs may help, but long-term use of these drugs, for the majority, will be ineffective because over time, the patient is likely to develop physical and psychological tolerance to the drug.

Dr David Crichton, chair of NHS Doncaster CCG

“These figures suggest to me that GP's here are stretched and overwhelmed and need better support and investment to be able to offer alternative treatment therapies like talking therapy, yoga, exercise, diet, and acupuncture to better tackle the root cause of their patients problems, instead of simply issuing a repeat prescription."

Officials at Public Health England have stated that long-term use on such a scale ‘could not be justified’ and was a sign of patients becoming dependent.

Dr David Crichton, clinical chair of NHS Doncaster CCG, said: “Doncaster is one of the most deprived areas in the country and we acknowledge there is a high prescribing rate of opiod pain related medication.

“Over the last 12 months, we have worked hard with a number of different health and care organisations in Doncaster to look at what we can do to reduce the prescribing of opiod medication as a long term option. Part of this work includes raising awareness of the side effects that prescribing drugs of this nature can have and their addictive nature.“Over the next 12 months, we will continue to work closely with all teams across Doncaster to address this issue. This will include looking at different ways of supporting people to manage pain in different ways, whilst ensuring people can continue to access appropriate medication when necessary.”

Codeine if used regularly can be addictive. Photo: FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

The drugs in more detail

Opiate prescription pain medicines can include codeine, morphine, fentanyl and Hydrocodone. Gabapentinoids (primarily gabapentin and pregabalin) are generally prescribed for epilepsy neuropathic pain. Pregabalin is also used for anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety, panic disorders and they act as muscle relaxants and include drugs like Xanax and Valium. Z-drugs are generally prescribed for sleep disorders and include zopiclone.

The stats in full (percentage shows amount of Doncaster people receiving prescription for 12 months or more)

Number receiving prescription for antidepressants: 33,254 (62%)

Number receiving prescription for opioid pain relief: 20,532 (60%)

Number receiving prescription for gabapentinoids: 6,977 (63%)

Number receiving prescription for benzodiazepines: 2,362 (59%)

Number receiving prescription for Z-drugs: 1,271 (59%)