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Doctors Report: Drug addiction is a clearly underestimated problem


Many Germans suffer from drug addiction
According to the latest figures from the German Center for Addiction Issues (DHS), an estimated 1.2 to 1.5 million people in Germany are dependent on medicines. "The number of people who misuse drugs - to lose weight, stay awake or improve performance - is probably just as large," reports the DHS.

According to the DHS, drug addiction is in second place behind all tobacco in Germany - even before alcohol addiction. This emerges from the new "DHS Yearbook Addiction 2017". In addition, there is a high lack of transparency in the area of ​​drug addiction. This especially affects the prescriptions for sleeping pills and sedatives, emphasizes Professor Dr. Gerd Glaeske from the University of Bremen in a statement for the press conference on the publication of the current DHS yearbook.

Questionable trend for Z drugs
The DHS scientists found that certain drugs from the “benzodiazepine family” (Valium and Co.) are prescribed less in number than in the past. But at the same time, there is a clear increase in prescriptions for sleeping pills from the group of Z drugs with the active ingredients zolpidem and zopiclone. 50% occurred, reports Professor Glaeske. These funds are now increasingly prescribed by private prescription, especially for those insured by the statutory health insurance companies. Today, private prescriptions for hypnotics are the rule rather than the exception. "Ultimately, they disguise critical drug supply because they are never systematically recorded and evaluated," emphasizes Glaeske.

Disguise tactics of prescribing doctors?
The expert sees the prescription of sleeping pills via private prescriptions primarily as a strategy of prescribers in order to remain undetected in the statistics of health insurance companies and to avoid unpleasant discussions about the ongoing prescription of addiction-inducing medicines or possible recourse. These regulations particularly affected people over the age of "over 65 and two thirds of them women." In this context, Professor Glaeske was also surprised that "the surveys funded by the Federal Ministry of Health on drug use among 64-year-olds stop."

Older people particularly at risk
The problem of drug addiction really begins at the age of 65, Glaeske continues. Taking medicines daily leads to “more and more active substances in the body in the body and thus to increased effects and undesirable effects.” For example, they suffer from limitations in their ability to concentrate and gait insecurity, the latter often being associated with falls and broken bones that are difficult to heal.

Lack of transparency in pain relievers
According to the expander, the lack of transparency affects not only sleeping pills and sedatives, but also pain medication. Around 150 million packs of a wide variety of pain relievers are sold here in Germany every year, of which 106 million packs (around 70 percent) are sold directly in pharmacies without a prescription. The buyers are often patients who have already been given pain medication by their doctors. "Pain therapy in Germany is thus dominated by analgesics in self-medication," says Professor Glaeske.

Advertising ban on pain relievers?
The increase in the prescription of highly effective pain relievers is also worrying because they are not always used where they are necessary. "Osteoporosis pain or back pain does not have to be treated with strong opioid pain plasters, which can also lead to addiction, as well as respiratory depression and constipation (constipation)," emphasizes Professor Glaeske. Overall, an intervention is required in the market for pain relievers, even if this is not in the interests of the pharmaceutical companies. According to Glaeske, an important step in the direction of prevention would be a ban on advertising for over-the-counter medicines with the potential for abuse. Around 300 to 400 million euros would be invested in this area every year, which would undoubtedly promote sales. "Brand names are being propagated and everyday situations are described in which painkillers maintain the ability to work, relieve stressful situations and make appointments for going to the cinema despite headaches that still exist," says Glaeske. Problems would simply be swallowed up in the advertising world.

1.5 billion drug packages sold
According to Professor Glaeske, around 1.5 billion pharmaceutical packs were sold in 2015, only 50 percent of which required a prescription and 50 percent could be purchased in the pharmacy without a prescription. The total turnover of the pharmaceutical manufacturers was around 30.4 billion euros. Among the medicines that are often prescribed, around four to five percent have their own potential for abuse and dependency, including, in particular, sleeping pills and sedatives with active ingredients from the benzodiazepine family and the so-called Z drugs such as zolpidem and zopiclone, Glaeske continues.

Medicines that do not require a prescription are also at risk
According to Professor Glaeske, ten to twelve percent of the non-prescription drugs have potential for abuse. These drugs include laxatives, certain pain relievers, decongestant nasal drops and sprays, and alcoholic flu and tonic juices. Glaeske emphasizes that the undesirable side effects are reported far too little in public, although they can pose significant dangers, both for the addicts themselves and for relatives or colleagues. Withdrawal symptoms such as lack of concentration or aggression are at risk. The risk of accidents increases and aggression can lead to violence and relationship problems in the family, friends or at work.

Drug addiction and drug abuse, like alcohol and drug addiction, must be publicly discussed and there must be preventive measures that benefit patients and consumers in particular, according to Professor Glaeske. Lack of transparency is out of place in this area. They only use those who benefit from abuse and addiction, "and these are certainly not the patients and consumers," Professor Glaeske concluded. (fp)

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