A DOCTOR has warned against a “free and easy” approach to giving out highly addictive painkillers as it was revealed one in seven adults in south Essex are taking them.

Dr Krishna Chaturverdi, who was a partner at Southbourne Grove surgery, Westcliff, for more than 30 years, insisted the trend of giving out powerful pills must stop.

He spoke as Public Health figures revealed more than 60,000 adults – one in seven – across south Essex were prescribed highly addictive opioid painkillers last year – and one in six were prescribed anti-depressants.

The new report told how 14 per cent of people in Castle Point, 13 per cent in Southend, and 13 per cent in Basildon had been prescribed the extra-strong painkillers.

Opioids are substances that act on opioid receptors to produce morphine-like effects – effectively relieving pain.

Dr Chaturverdi, now a GP at Shoebury Health Centre, said: “There are extremely high risks to patients using these drugs.

“Most of the patients, in my knowledge, are told these are highly addictive, they are habit forming and they are not doing any good after a week of taking them.

“They become completely ineffective, but have toxic side effects. They should not be given so freely and easily.”

He was confident most doctors give the right advice.

He added: “They can be effective short term, but we are all aware they should not be used for long period.

“I think we need more regulations and alternatives. Physical therapy has come such a long way and we need to look at those options rather than medical therapy.”

In the Basildon and Brentwood Clinical Commissioning Group area, 25,648 adults received at least one prescription for opioid painkillers in 2017/18. In Southend, the figure was 18,188, while in Castle Point and Rochford it was 18,421 adults taking the highly addictive prescription drugs.

In Castle Point and Rochford, 25,017 people received a prescription for anti-depressants in 2017-18 – 18 per cent of the adult population - compared to 17 per cent in both Basildon and Southend, which equated to 34,350 and 24,235 respectively. Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the country is “in the grip of an over-medication crisis”.

A spokesman for Southend, Castle Point and Rochford NHS clinical commissioning groups, said: “It is clear that collaboration between different parts of the healthcare system is needed to ensure appropriate services and support are available for people who are prescribed opioids.

“We need to understand more about why more opioids are prescribed and to ensure support is available.

“Increased awareness among the public and clinicians of treatments that are alternative, or supplementary, to medicines, and of the risks and benefits of medicines, is vital.”