Thursday 13 May 2021

Oxycodone overdoses in the Netherlands soar as prescriptions rise


The number of people overdosing on the powerful painkiller oxycodone in the Netherlands has gone up six fold in ten years, according to figures by toxicology centre NVIC  published on Friday.

In 2008 some 43 people overdosed on the drug, which is twice as powerful as morphine and highly addictive when used longer term. That figure jumped to 280 in 2017 and this year experts at the NVCI say they are expecting many more cases, given that 215 overdoses were registered in the first six months of 2018.

According to the NVCI the real number of overdoses related to the drug, which has caused a health care crisis in the United States, may be higher. This is because the centre only registers cases if doctors ask for advice when a patient has taken too much of the drug. They are not under an obligation to register an overdose.

‘We are worried about this trend,’ NVIC toxicologist Antoinette van Riel told the Volkskrant. ‘What we see here is the tip of the iceberg. In the United States it started in the same way. Doctors who often give out repeat prescriptions have to be more aware of the danger of addiction and be more reticent when it comes to prescribing painkillers such as oxycodone. We think perhaps doctors are too focused on pain relief.’

The total number of oxycodone users in the Netherlands has tripled in the last six years to reach 439,000 in 2017.

It is not known whether any deaths resulted from an overdosis of the drug.

Oxycodone used to be prescribed to terminal patients only but the focus has now shifted to pain relief after breaking a bone, or a slipped disc. According to some doctors, hospitals prescribe the drug to score better when it comes to pain relief but medical care minister Bruno Bruins denied there is such an incentive, the paper said

Thank you for donating to

The team would like to thank all the generous readers who have made a donation in recent weeks. Your financial support has helped us to expand our coverage of the coronavirus crisis into the evenings and weekends and make sure you are kept up to date with the latest developments. has been free for 14 years, but without the financial backing of our readers, we would not be able to provide you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch. Your contributions make this possible.

If you have not yet made a donation, but would like to, you can do so via Ideal, credit card or Paypal.