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GPs urged to slash prescriptions of sleeping pills and painkillers over fears millions of Britons are addicted
New guidelines advise doctors to consider alternative treatments such as physiotherapy and counselling62 million prescriptions for painkillers written out every year – and another 50 million for sleeping pills

By
Sophie Borland

PUBLISHED:

16:02 GMT, 16 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

01:52 GMT, 17 January 2013

Family doctors are being told to slash prescriptions of painkillers and sleeping pills amid concerns that patients are becoming addicted.

New guidelines urge doctors to consider alternative treatments such as physiotherapy and counselling.

The latest NHS figures show that some 62million prescriptions for painkillers are written out every year with another 50million for sleeping pills..

GPs are being told to cut prescriptions of painkillers and sleeping pills amid concerns that patients are becoming addicted

GPs are being told to cut prescriptions of painkillers and sleeping pills amid concerns that patients are becoming addicted

But experts warn that more than a
million Britons are now hooked on these drugs with many suffering severe
withdrawal symptoms if they try to come off.

There are also increasing
concerns over the long-term side-effects of some pills, particularly
benzodiazepines which relieve insomnia and anxiety.

Only last year a Harvard University
study found pensioners who had taken the pills were 50 per cent more
likely to develop dementia.

Joint guidelines issued by medical
bodies including the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Nursing
and the British Psychological Society urge doctors not to prescribe such
pills for long periods.

They warn there is a risk patients will become
addicted and this can be ‘devastating’ for their lives and families.

Doctors ignore dementia plan.jpg

Doctors ignore dementia plan.jpg

The new guidelines encourage doctors to consider alternative treatments such as physiotherapy and counselling

The new guidelines encourage doctors to consider alternative treatments such as physiotherapy and counselling

Doctors are told to review patients’ prescriptions regularly to check whether they are still needed.

They are also urged to consider
alternatives such as counselling for depression and insomnia, and
physiotherapy for pain, before starting patients off on drugs. Experts
are particularly worried that patients are becoming addicted to
painkillers containing codeine, an opiate from the same family as heroin
and morphine.

The drug induces a sense of relaxation
and is included in popular brands such as Nurofen Plus, Solpadeine Max,
Panadol Ultra and Syndol.

There is also concern that many
patients are becoming addicted to benzodiazepines, include temazepam and
diazepam, which are prescribed for insomnia and anxiety.

As many as a million Britons are
thought to be hooked on the pills – and some experts claim it is harder
to come off them than heroin. They have also been linked to falls,
memory problems, panic attacks and early death.