(NaturalNews) Approximately 1.5 million people in the United Kingdom are addicted to prescription or over-the-counter drugs, many of which were legally acquired.
In July, the Department of Health launched a review of the problem, after the House of Commons All-Party Group on Drug Misuse called for greater awareness, better doctor training and more treatment options.
Although medical guidelines discourage doctors from prescribing benzodiazepine tranquilizers such as Valium for more than four weeks at a time, many patients still become addicted.
"There are still lots and lots of patients being put on these drugs and kept on them for a long time," said Pam Armstrong of the Council for Information on Tranquillizers and Antidepressants. "I have some sympathy with [doctors] -- they get a lot of pressure from patients who want these drugs. But the problem has been ignored."
Other highly addictive drugs include sleeping pills and narcotic painkillers. A recent study found that painkillers containing codeine can be addictive within as little as three days.
The increasing prevalence of Internet pharmacies has made prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse an increasingly popular alternative to the abuse of wholly banned drugs.
Yet not all addicts intended to abuse drugs. The Telegraph cites the case of one man who was placed on an antidepressant and a benzodiazepine in 2001, and remained on them for the next seven years. When increasing fatigue led him to attempt to quit "cold turkey" under hospital supervision, the results were devastating.
"In two days I was a train wreck. I felt I had woken up in a horror film, I couldn't walk or think and I had lost my memory. It was indescribable torture," he said.
Nine months later, he is still unable to work.
"I am still terrified of going outside, I can't think straight or concentrate and I have very bad depression," he said. "I have seen several doctors since and they cannot believe my doctor kept me on these drugs for seven years."