When most people think of addiction, they typically think of substances such as alcohol or illegal drugs. They may even think of activities such as gambling or sex; most, though, are unaware of the growing problem of prescription drug addiction.
Commonly prescribed drugs can be highly addictive and many of the individuals prescribed these medications are oblivious to this fact. Most believe that drugs prescribed by their doctor must be safe, and while these medications are safe to take as prescribed, they can be addictive.
Prescription Drug Deaths
A new report has revealed that deaths linked to benzodiazepines are up eight per cent in England and Wales while figures for 2014 are the highest they have ever been since records began in 1993. Benzodiazepines are prescribed to treat conditions such as insomnia and anxiety; in 2014, more than ten million prescriptions were dispensed in England alone. However, the bigger problem is the supply of illegal versions of these drugs online.
BBC’s 5 Live Investigates found that websites were supplying these drugs without any prescriptions, which is fuelling an addiction to the drugs.
One of the biggest causes of prescription medication is self-medicating and sourcing these drugs without a prescription. Nobody has intentions of developing a prescription drug addiction and most people believe that drugs used to help them sleep are harmless, especially if prescribed by a doctor. Nevertheless, these individuals often become dependent on the medication very quickly, which can then lead to addiction. They end up taking the pills even when these are no longer needed. Jason Houghton is an example.
Houghton was working irregular shifts in his job as a paramedic and, to help him sleep, he ordered benzodiazepines online. His dad, Keith said, “He told us that he’d started working nights, which involved four night shifts in a row and then four days. He was having difficulty getting back to sleep, he was that wired up.”
Tragically, Jason quickly developed an addiction to these drugs, which then led to his death. Keith is now calling on the Government to tackle the problem of the illegal supply of these drugs online.
The British Journal of Psychiatry published the results of a survey after questioning 1,500 people about their use of benzodiazepines to treat insomnia. The results showed that 30 per cent had misused these drugs, with twenty-seven per cent buying them online. Eleven per cent admitted to buying the drugs while abroad. Drug addiction is a real issue when it comes to prescription medicament use.
Chief Executive of Addiction Dependency Solutions Lady Rhona Bradley said, “Addiction to prescription drugs is a hugely underestimated issue in the UK – estimates believe there could be more than one million people addicted to such prescribed medication as benzodiazepines.”
She believes that targeted treatment is needed in addition to the services already provided for those with drug and alcohol addictions. She added, “The biggest worry for us is that those who have become involuntarily addicted, become so reliant and desperate due to the lack of support, services and advice, that they turn to the internet to supplement their addiction.”
Although there are restrictions in place in the UK in terms of the buying and selling of benzodiazepines, online activity is outside the jurisdiction of the Home Office.
A statement from the Home Office read, “We continue to control a number of prescription-only medicines under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. These include benzodiazepines, tramadol, morphine, codeine and diazepam, and we have commissioned the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to look into the issues around the diversion and illicit supply of these medicines.”