International Drug Abuse

Although Americans currently have the greatest problem internationally with prescription drug abuse and addiction much of the rest of the world is slowly catching up.

According to the United Nations global drugs watchdogs, as abuse of prescription drugs  rapidly grows around the world, more people are abusing legal narcotics than heroin, cocaine and ecstasy combined.

It’s difficult to get comprehensive data on the abuse of pharmaceuticals, but in Germany, for example, an estimated 1.4 to 1.9 million people were addicted to prescription drugs as of 2010.

In Canada, an estimated 1 to 3 percent of the population abuses prescription opioids, and in several European countries — such as France, Italy, Lithuania and Poland — between 10 and 18 percent of students use sedatives or tranquilizers without a prescription.

Drug Abuse In the UK…

An article BBC News Health 26 July 2011, entitled, “Many GPs ‘prescribe drugs to addicted patients’” gives some information about General Practitioners in the United Kingdom and their thoughts about prescribing and drug abuse.

  • 52.7% of GPs who responded are quite/very worried about prescription drug abuse in their area
  • 80% are aware of prescribing to people who may be addicted
  • Half think more research is needed on this issue

Over 40% of the practices have minimal/no appropriate support from local addiction services

Comments by U.K. Doctors

“I confront them but they almost always deny it and decline any offers of help.”

“The patients I recall have usually moved onto the practice list with their addiction already well-established over many years. It is very hard to change this if the symptoms that led to them being prescribed the drugs in the first place still exist.”

The article cites a study done by the Family Doctor Association which also suggests abuse of types of sleeping pills, antidepressants and painkillers is increasing in the UK.

In Canada

Below are graphs showing information collected by IMS Health, the world largest independent depository of information regarding medical prescribing practices.  One graph is related to drug sales and prescribing, the other gives the top ten reasons Canadians visited the doctor in a year.

Prescription Drug Sales Canada 2010 - Drugs by Class

Prescription Drug Sales Canada 2010 – Drugs by Class











Of these top ten types of drugs prescribed by Canadian doctors in 2010, the second most prescribed category, the sixth and the ninth all contain potentially addictive drugs.


Top reasons Canadians Visit a Doctor

Top Reasons for Visiting a Doctor – Canada