The number of people using narcotic analgesics has more than doubled in Finland over the past five years, with the number of people being reimbursed by Kela for the costs of opioid analgesics jumping from 166,000 in 2008 to 416,000 in 2013.
Today, it is not uncommon to treat mild back pain with analgesics used to manage pain in patients with cancer, points out Antti Mikkonen, a clinical lecturer in addiction medicine at the University of Turku. In particular, Mikkonen has paid attention to the increase in the use of oxycodone: while 12,800 Finns used the narcotic analgesic in 2008, last year as many as 21,700 did.
“The drug in question should only be used to treat pain associated with cancer and surgery. Yet, I have patients who have been prescribed oxycodone for mild, long-term nerve or musculoskeletal pain,” Mikkonen says.
Pain affiliated with problems in the nervous or musculoskeletal system, Mikkonen argues, should never be treated, particularly in the long term, with addictive opioid-based drugs, such as Panacod and Tramadol.
“Patients addicted to analgesics who come to the clinic usually use harder opioids than drug users with an opioid addiction,” he highlights.
Although there is no specific reason for the increase in the use of narcotic analgesics, Mikkonen estimates that one contributing factor may be the lack of time and resources of physicians: without time, patients are sent home with prescriptions.
The use of analgesics is particularly common among middle-age men, working-age people and young substance abusers, Mikkonen says.
CORRECTION: The article initially incorrectly stated that 470,000 people were in 2013 reimbursed by Kela for the costs of opioid analgesics. The correct number of recipients is 416,000. In 2008, the number of recipients was 166,000, not 180,000. Last year, 21,700 people – not 12,000, as initially stated – were reimbursed for the costs of oxycodone-based analgesics. In 2008, the number of recipients was 12,800, not 7,000.
Mervi Juusola – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
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Photo: Seppo Samuli / Lehtikuva