After the surge in opioid prescriptions across the UK, there is a risk of codeine addiction.
According to a new study, drug orders increased between 2006 and 2017, with 14% of patients becoming long-term users.
Researchers analyzed data from 1,968,742 new opioid users to identify prescribing trends and understand risk factors.
They found that opioid prescriptions, especially codeine, morphine, and oxycodone, all increased significantly during the course of the study.
And a history of aging, social deprivation, and self-harm or substance abuse is thought to be associated with an increased risk of long-term opioid use.
Researchers are calling for action for safer and more consistent opioid prescribing practices in the United Kingdom to avoid the prevalence of addiction found in many other countries, such as the United States.
Dr. Meghna Jani of the University of Manchester, who worked on a study published in the PLOS Medicine journal, said: ‘Given the potential harm of these drugs, we believe it is essential to promote safe practice in opioid prescribing and reduce observed variability. Between regions, practices and prescribers.
“One way to do this is to harmonize prescribing practices across the region through well-studied future policies.
“The other is to develop targeted interventions for high-risk groups and those undergoing major surgery, including areas of social deprivation.”
Overall, the results show that 14.6% of patients with new opioid prescriptions have been long-term users since the first year.
It was also discovered that a small percentage of doctors were what researchers called high-risk prescribers. The patient was 3.5 times more likely to continue using the drug.
A retrospective cohort study was conducted using the UK Primary Care Electronic Health Record from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink.
They found that the most commonly used opioids were codeine, dihydrocodeine, and tramadol.
Over the 12 years from 2006 to 2017, codeine usage increased from 484 prescriptions per year to 2,456 prescriptions per 10,000 population.
Prescriptions for dihydrocodeine, tramadol, and fentanyl increased between 2006 and 2012 and then leveled off until the end of 2017.
Within a strong opioid group, oxycodone prescriptions have increased from about 5 to 169 per 10,000 people per year in 12 years.
Morphine prescriptions have also increased, with 18 to 422 prescriptions per 10,000 people per year between 2006 and 2017.
The authors point out that their research has some limitations. They said they were limited to patients who were prescribed opioids in primary care and did not include opioids available over the counter or opioids prescribed in hospitals or medication centers.
The findings may underestimate the overall drug use of weaker opioids, as the data collects electronic prescription information from primary care physicians.
Another limitation is that tramadol was reclassified as a Schedule 3 drug in 2014, banning prescriptions for more than a month at a time.
Therefore, the increase in prescriptions may reflect the short prescriptions for certain medications.
The researchers added: ‘Treatment for opioid addiction is not available in the dataset as it is prescribed primarily through a specialized addiction center in the UK, not primary care.
“Therefore, the analysis could not explain these.”
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