Most people with chronic debilitating pain aren't being helped by the drugs, the UK's leading pain experts have said. Despite their ineffectiveness, prescriptions for opioids have doubled in the last 20 years in the UK, and today one in eight adults is regularly taking them.
Dr Cathy Stannard, a pain expert, has told a conference that the opioids aren't effective. They merely stop pain signals reaching the brain, and there should be more emphasis on helping people cope with emotional issues.
Chronic pain is often linked to trauma, and prescribing opioids to treat psychological distress is wrong, the conference was told.
The overprescribing of opioids has happened because doctors don't have enough time to properly assess patients, and there is an expectation among patients that they want a quick and easy answer to their pain.
Opioids are part of the drug family that also includes heroin, and there is a very high risk that people can become addicted to them.