A painkiller commonly prescribed to patients after routine surgery is actually just as addictive as dangerous opiates such as Oxycontin, new research shows.
The drug is just as likely to result in prolonged use as controversial drugs such as Oxycontin, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
The researchers analysed the records of 444,000 American patients who underwent surgery between 2009 and 2018.
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The researchers found that people prescribed tramadol were just as likely to go on using the drugs.
Lead author Dr Cornelius Thiel of the Mayo clinic said: “This data will force us to reevaluate our post surgical prescribing guidelines.
“And while Tramadol may still be an acceptable option for some patients, our data suggests we should be as cautious with Tramadol as we are with other short-acting opioids.”
Last month the Department for Health announced plans for opioid painkillers to carry addiction warnings.
The new rules will apply to over-the-counter pills and prescription medications.
The painkillers have a sedative effect and can also cause pleasurable feelings in users.
People who take them for a long time also build up a tolerance and have to take higher doses to feel the same effects. Opioid addicts report similar symptoms to heroin addicts when coming off the drugs.
Levels of opioid consumption in the UK are among the highest in Europe.
In the US, levels of addiction to prescription drugs are so high the country has been forced to declare a national emergency.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in April: “We know that too much of any painkiller can damage your health, and some opioids are highly addictive and can ruin lives like an illegal drug.
“Things are not as bad here as in America, but we must act now to protect people from the darker side to painkillers.”