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Use of deadly painkillers on the rise in Belgium

Aug 10, 2017
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The number of Belgians who take the heavy painkiller oxycodone has doubled in five years, reports Het Nieuwsblad. The drug is highly addictive and lethal in high doses. "In the past, these types of drugs were seen as the last resort. Now they are being prescribed too easily,” warns Cathy Matheï, addiction expert at the KU Leuven.

Oxycodone falls in the same family of drugs as morphine and heroin: all are opioids, a class of strong pain-relieving drugs derived from opium. "When I was still studying, there was always a kind of fearful way of talking about these types of drugs," says Matheï. “Opioids were seen as the last resort because the risk of addiction is quite high. And because an overdose can be deadly.”

According to figures from the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (INAMI), oxycodone - on the market under the brand name OxyContin - was prescribed for 27,753 patients in 2011, compared to 66,173 patients in 2015.

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