Is There an Opioid Addiction Crisis in the UK?

The US has been going through a serious opioid crisis for the past few years. Is it possible that the UK may be on the same path? Even though treatment for opioid addiction in the UK  is available for free through the NHS, the statistics still show that opioid addiction is on the rise.

Causes differ, and there’s more to addiction than meets the eye, but what should we do if there really is an opioid addiction crisis in the UK?

Opioid Use in the UK

More than 62 million (624,411,164) opioid doses were prescribed during 2018-2019 in England.

Experts think that the high rates of opioid addiction are due to the vast majority of doctors prescribing opioids. Even though opioids are used as pain-relieving medications, they have more effects than just that.

Due to the high potency of opioids, when someone is prescribed one, they are likely to form a dependence or develop at least some level of tolerance to the drug.

As such, as time progresses, patients need more and more opioids, and in most cases, they accidentally develop an opioid addiction. Even though this addiction may not be fully intended, the body becomes fully dependent.

Rising Prescription Opioids and Availability

Opioid addiction is taking the lives of hundreds of people every year and is destroying the lives of millions. Healthcare specialists think that the rise in prescription misuse is a public health disaster, and they aren’t wrong.

UK statistics show that the number of prescriptions issued in Wales and England for such medications has dramatically risen from 14 million in 2008 to 24 million in 2018.

Furthermore, the availability of opioids and other opioid-based medicines is widespread. Almost every type of opioid is available for sale online to be bought through a credit card.

Most of these online pharmacies do not conduct any proper checks, and prescriptions can easily be faked. Moreover, some medication that codeine can even be obtained in a pharmacy, over-the-counter.

Opioid Addiction Goes Beyond Just “Pain”

According to the head of Drug Wise, an addiction-related charity, people who take opioids and other pills frequently are doing so for more than just physical pain. Most of these people likely are dealing with financial issues or mental health issues, and opioids help them “take the edge off” their lives.

Evidence supports this theory, as the parts of England that are considered poor, such as the North, have a higher rate of prescription. Compared to main London, Northern England has four times the rate of opioid prescriptions.

Using opioids as a way to escape life is a common theme found in most people who suffer from substance and drug use disorders. In most addictions, people are trying to forget about their troubles, and drugs such as opioids help them do that.

Prevention and Intervention

The British government recognizes that there’s a problem. To counteract this, they announced that all opioids must come with warning labels on them. These labels would be similar to the ones found on cigarette boxes.

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, says that these labels will warn users that opioids can cause addiction.

However, not everyone is on board with this idea. People aren’t exactly against it, but they say that putting labels isn’t going to do anything. Just as cigarette labels don’t end smoking, warning labels on opioids will not decrease opioid use.

Experts want the government to set up services that are primarily dedicated to taking care of people with opioid addictions. They say that such people will not walk into normal clinics asking for help. They need experts who understand their situation, and only then will they be able to help them recover from their addiction.


The misuse of opioids in the UK is beginning to closely resemble the opioid addiction crisis of the United States.

#1 Doctors in England and Wales are prescribing opioid and opioid-based medication way more than ever before.

#2 Prescription opioids often lead to bodies being dependent on opioids. Continued and increased usage thus leads to addiction.

#3 Opioids have become increasingly easy to find and buy. Online options typically do not verify prescriptions, meaning they can be fabricated. Some OTC medications also contain codeine.

#4 All sorts of addiction are because of more factors than just pain. Most people who struggle with opioid addiction also struggle either with some form of mental illness or financial instability.

#5 The British government is trying to tackle the opioid crisis by including fair warnings on the packaging that opioids may cause addiction. However, some experts say this isn’t enough.

The increasing rates of opioid prescription and opioid overdose are alarming. It is impertinent that the British government and the NHS must take a stand to make sure that citizens are safe, and those who are struggling can get help.

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