More painkiller addicts sign up for help as prescriptions soar


The number of people treated for painkiller addiction in the Netherlands has soared in recent years, rising from 92 in 2013 as a whole to 252 in the first six months of 2019, the NRC said on Monday.

The figures come from the country’s main five addiction clinics, where addicts ranging from lawyers to plumbers are being treated, the paper said.

Addiction experts speak of a ‘new group of addicts’, the paper said. Most of them are aged 30 to 50, with complex pain problems, and have little experience with hard drugs.

The number of people in the Netherlands prescribed heavy opiate painkillers has risen 55% in the past seven years, according research published late last year by the Dutch health insurers association ZN.

By 2017, the last year for which figures are available, over one million people were being prescribed painkillers such as Oxycodone and Tramadol, and 218,000 people had been taking them for more than three months, ZN said.

The bulk of the increase – described a silent epidemic by some experts – is due to the use of Oxycodone, which is associated with thousands of deaths in the US.

Experts say the drugs, which are highly addictive, should only be prescribed long term to terminal cancer patients. In most cases, the drugs are prescribed by a family doctor and 60% of the patients are female.

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