Medical cannabis could be a silver bullet for treating chronic pain — so why are doctors prescribing opioids?
Doctors warn the NHS is fuelling an addiction crisis because of an increase in the prescribing of powerful painkillers.
Nearly 24 million opioids, such as morphine, were prescribed in 2017 - equivalent to 2,700 packs an hour.
A drugs counsellor and former user told the BBC the NHS was "creating drug addicts".
The Royal College of GPs said doctors would not prescribe opioid painkillers as a "quick fix".
Opioids such as morphine, tramadol and fentanyl are super-strength painkillers, which can be highly addictive and can kill if misused.
An investigation by BBC News has found:
More than two million working age people in England are estimated to have taken a prescription painkiller that was not prescribed for them in 2016-17.
GPs in England prescribed 23.8 million opioid-based painkillers in 2017, the equivalent of 2,700 items every hour.
This was 10 million more prescriptions than in 2007.
The prescribing rate of opioid painkillers in parts of northern England is four times higher than in London.
The latest figures show the number of people dying from opioid-related drug misuse has reached a record high in England and Wales. About 3,700 people died in 2016 because of drug misuse.
More than 2,000 of these deaths involved an opioid, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The government has ordered an investigation into the growing problem of addiction to prescription drugs such as painkillers and medicines to treat anxiety and insomnia.
Steve Brine, the public health minister, has acted after it emerged that one in 11 (8.9%) patients treated by the NHS in England last year was given a drug that can induce dependency.
Fears about excessive prescription has also been boosted by the more than 100% rise in the number of antidepressants prescribed in England over the last decade and the fact that prescription of addictive medicines has increased by 3% over the last five years.
Britain needed to heed warnings from America, where an estimated 64,000 people a year are dying from drug overdoses, partly as a result of a huge recent increase in addiction to painkillers, Brine said.
“We know this is a huge problem in other countries like the United States, and we must absolutely make sure it doesn’t become one here,” he added Brine.
Brine has asked Public Health England to undertake an independent inquiry into the scale of the problem, including the harms caused by dependence on and withdrawal from a range of commonly prescribed drugs.
In fact, the NY Times as far back as 2008 reported that pharmaceutical drugs kill far more people than ‘illegal’ drugs do, and cocaine and heroin were included in the study to back this up. And yet these same pharmaceutical drugs are killing more and more people the world over!
Who is it that controls the countries that we live in - our governments or the pharmaceutical companies who are constantly lobbying our governments? You work it out!