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Prescription addiction on the rise

glass jar with colored pills

In the States every day 42 women die from a drug overdose and close to half these deaths are from prescribed medicines.  Research is now showing this isn’t a Mother’s Little Helper problem confined exclusively to 70s housewives.  It’s a growing issue in the UK too 

On Tuesday this week the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that the number of women dying from prescription drug overdoses – most of them unintentional – was up a staggering 400 per cent.  It prompted doctors to call this reliance on prescription painkillers ‘an epidemic that has to be stopped.’

In fact, four times as many women died from prescription painkillers as heroin and cocaine combined in the last year.

Here in the UK the number of painkiller prescriptions increased sixfold to 1.4 billion from 1991 to 2011 and those for the strongest painkillers – including the morpheine based oxycodone (the active ingredient in Oxycontin) –  are also on the rise. Indeed, a survey by the Family Doctor Association in the UK  has found quite shockingly that 80 per cent of doctors  routinely prescribe drugs to which they believe the patient may be addicted.

The brilliant journalist Cathryn Kemp who bravely told her story of addiction in her book Painkiller Addict has said: ‘I became addicted to prescription painkillers after an extremely serious, life-threatening illness. I became addicted after being on a morphine drip for four years and being prescribed fentanyl lozenges [an opioid analgesic] for pain relief.

‘Those painkillers saved my life – then nearly killed me, and yet they are prescribed to people post-surgery every day.

‘My addiction unleashed a monster within me, that much is true. I went from eight lozenges a day to almost 60 by the time my GP cut me off. It was at that point I went into rehab, absolutely convinced I wasn’t a druggie.

‘It took a week for me to realise the horrific truth. I was. My God I was. I was taking the largest amount of opiates in the clinic’s 25-year-history. You can’t deny facts like that!’ said Kemp.

Kemp went to rehab and now clean, lived to tell the tale.  Hers is a voice for women who may be developing a problem they don’t even know they have at the hands of prescription-happy medics.

painkiller book Painkiller Addict by Cathryn Kemp (Piatkus £12.99) is from Amazon. Visit

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