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Hospital admissions caused by opioid addiction surge

In the US, 130 people a day die from an opioid overdose, with the addiction causing more fatalities than gun crime and breast cancer.

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Closeup of a brown glass prescription bottle with pills in a row.

By Gwyn Wright via SWNS

Hospital admissions caused by opioid addiction in England have surged by almost 50 percent in just 10 years.

And more than five people a day are dying from overdoses of prescription painkillers or illegal opioids like heroin.

Almost one in ten Britons were prescribed an opioid by their doctor in 2019, according to Public Health England.

The health quango said half a million people had been on opioids for more than three years.

An analysis of hospital patient data in England found opioid-related admissions rose from 10,805 in 2008 to 16,091 in 2018, an increase of 49 percent.

The increase was 21 percent bigger than the average for other emergency admissions in England and 40 percent higher than for those caused by alcohol or other illegal drugs.

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The National Health Service spent £137 million ($185,000 USD) treating ailments caused by the dangerous drugs over that period.

Researchers from the London School of Economics (LSE) and the University of Barcelona looked at hospitalization data for people using both legal opioids, such as prescription pain killers tramadol and fentanyl, and deadly illegal opioids such as heroin.

The central figure masks shocking rises in hospitalizations among some groups, such as people with four co-morbidities who were more than six times (627 percent) more likely to be admitted for their addiction in 2018 than they were ten years previously.

Hospitalizations also rose by 160 percent among over-55s and, perhaps surprisingly, for those living in affluent areas they rose by 94 percent.

Many of the hospitalizations are caused by opioid poisoning.

Deaths from an opioid overdose among 15 to 64-year-olds rose by more than 20 percent between 2011 and 2016, but have since stabilized at a shocking 2,000 deaths per year.

The researchers say deaths may have stopped rising because more has been done to improve access to overdose reversal drug Naloxone.

Death statistics mask the true scale of the harm caused by the drugs because opioid addicts often end up in hospital and pile pressure on the system, according to academics.

While prescriptions have flattened in the past five years, the strength of prescribed opiate drugs has continued to increase.

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Study author Dr. Rocco Friebel from the LSE said: “Despite progress in addressing opioid-related mortality in England, the detrimental effects of harmful opioid use on population health, the NHS and public finances remain substantial.

“A more systematic approach is required to target people at risk from harmful use of opioids.

“We observed marked rises in hospitalizations between 2010 and 2013, mostly driven by opioid poisoning.

“This could be an effect caused by cuts to welfare support, causing rising levels of unemployment, poverty and related effects such as homelessness.”

Opioid addiction has plagued America for decades but the growth of opioid addiction in the UK has become more widely known in recent years.

In the US, 130 people a day die from an opioid overdose, with the addiction causing more fatalities than gun crime and breast cancer.

The findings were published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

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