Painkillers are among the best-selling OTC drugs in Germany. Frequent use can, however, be addictive and trigger drug-induced headaches. In light of recent figures on analgesic addiction, pain medications are now urgently warning the abuse of painkillers.
An aspirin pack, a pack of ibuprofen, a Diclofenac ointment – analgesics (analgesics) are among the best in German pharmacies. The remedies are used to treat headaches, back pain or joint pain and are usually purchased over the counter. An evaluation of the 2018 Addiction Epidemiological Survey (ESA) conducted by the Institute for Therapy Research in Munich now shows the extent to which the use of analgesics is widespread in Germany and to what extent he is dangerous.
26 million Germans use painkillers
According to the survey, 31.4% of respondents took over-the-counter pain medication in the last 30 days and 17.5% took prescription pain medications. Extrapolated in Germany, this means that about 26 million people take painkillers, the majority (16.2 million) without a prescription. An estimated 1.6 million people aged 18 to 64 are addicted to painkillers.
The recurring fear that developments such as those observed in the United States for the treatment of pain – especially opioids – is not confirmed, commented the German Society of Pain Medicine (DGS) as a result of the outcome of the study published in the Deutsches Ärzteblatt. However, there is a "questionable development of over-the-counter drugs in the analgesic area".
Consequence: drug-induced headache and analgesic dependence
People who take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen for at least 15 days a month are at risk of hurting themselves. "It can trigger headaches due to drugs or addiction to drugs," warns the president of the DGS. Johannes Horlemann. Unfortunately, knowledge is not widespread, so that analgesics "which, too, do not contain opioids are addictive and very often cause psychological sequelae or even accompany".
Opiates are not the problem in this country
According to the survey, addiction to painkillers has long exceeded alcohol dependence. Unlike the United States, opiates are not the problem in Germany, but the best-selling ones such as ibuprofen. "Thus, the data support serious opioid treatment in the field of pain medicine," says Horlemann. The uncontrolled delivery of painkillers, however, he considers dangerous.
"We therefore support the initiative of the Minister of Health to strengthen the control of the free administration of analgesics to patients," he said. "Because the health and economic consequences of this disease are a heavy burden for society as a whole."
Antidepressants come right after painkillers
Incidentally, antidepressants are the second most popular drug after analgesics. 4.1% of respondents, or 2.1 million people in Germany, according to figures from the ESA, such lightening agents.
Since the 1980s, the Epidemiological Drug Abuse Survey (ESA) has been recording the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs and drugs in the general population of Germany at regular intervals. The focus is on observing trends in substance use and its consequences.