MORPHINE, tramadol, co-codamol, Buscopan and prochlorperazine.

They are just five of the 34 prescription drugs Gabriella Goode used to take each and every day.


She says: “I’ve spent years taking every antidepressant available on the NHS, around 25 of them.

“I was on so many different types of medication for the complex ­conditions I have.”

The 27-year-old nurse, from ­Salisbury, Wilts, is blighted by chronic pain caused by a catalogue of conditions including migraine, depression, lupus, fibromyalgia, ­irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue, but believes many of the medications she was prescribed did more harm than good.

She says: “They helped to begin with but my GP told me my body became used to them and they stopped being effective. Not to ­mention the fact that some of them left me feeling like a zombie.”

Gabriella is just one of millions who rely on prescription drugs.

New research has found the NHS spends around £500million a year on addictive prescription medication that patients often do not need.

The amount wasted each year would be enough to pay the salaries of around 20,000 nurses — and the unnecessary medication is taking a huge toll on patients’ health.

One in five hospital admissions of people aged over 65 is caused by side effects of prescription drugs, with some 1.12billion prescriptions dispensed last year.

Gabriella says: “You think because the GP has prescribed them they must be good for you or helping somehow, but some of the drugs I’ve been on have really inhibited how I can live.

“Your body gets so used to them when you take them for a long time that they simply stop working in the way they should and then you’re taking them just through habit rather than the fact they’re doing you any good at all.

“I live in constant chronic pain and have days and sometimes weeks at a time where I can’t get out of bed when I’m having a flare-up of ­fibromyalgia or IBS. It’s no way to live.

“Prescription drugs are supposed to make people better but I’m proof that’s not always the case.”

In 2019, the cost of prescriptions topped £9billion, up £248million from the 2018 figure.

With that number continuing to rise, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England Dr Keith Ridge admitted in a report published in September that prescription medicines can indeed “cause harm and be wasted”.

Celebrities, too, have been pretty candid about the subject.

In January, singer Lily Allen, 36, revealed she was previously addicted to Adderall, a prescription medication used to treat ADHD.

Actress Lena Dunham, 35, has told how she become hooked on pain-relieving medication after a 2017 hysterectomy, while TV presenter Ant McPartlin, 45, entered rehab in 2018 after his prescribed painkillers for a knee injury became a habit.

A recent government review has found one tenth of prescription medications given out by GPs is unnecessary.

I’ve spent years taking every antidepressant available on the NHS, around 25 of them.

A staggering 20 prescriptions are given per person in the UK each year — a figure which has doubled over the last decade.

Prescription medications can have side effects such as hallucinations, mental health ­conditions, fatty liver problems and hair loss.

A US and European-wide study found prescribed drugs were the third-biggest cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

The research discovered half of those who die have incorrectly taken their drugs, while the other half die because of errors including too-high dosages.

Sana Kardar, from Kingston-upon-Thames, South West London, ended up in A&E after an endometriosis flare-up five years ago.

When surgery failed to ease the 29-year-old’s agony, her doctor put her on a strong painkiller.

She says: “After a few months, my dose was increased but it gave me facial seizures and I gained 20kg.”

Student Sana decided to take herself off the endometriosis drugs but her GP did not check or ask her why — despite her symptoms.

Getting the drugs out of her system was not easy.

She says: “The first six to eight weeks were terrible — I had to actually hold my legs or arms to stop them trembling.

“I felt so fatigued and just tired all the time.

“I could not sleep at all but after a while all the horrendous symptoms I’d had while on the medications started to go and I felt the old me returning.”

My dose was increased but it gave me facial seizures and I gained 20kg.

She now manages her pain using heat pads, diet management, herbal teas, over-the-counter painkillers and sitting in certain positions.

She is one of the 15 per cent of people in the UK who take five or more prescription drugs every day.

Sana also suffers from other ­conditions including clinical ­depression and chronic fatigue but says her antidepressant use was similarly unsupervised.

She explains: “Until recently, my mental health medications also had not been reviewed for four years.

“Gaining weight in 2017 left my mental health in a bad place and it caused hormonal fluctuations which made my endometriosis worse.

“But that was not picked up on or talked about with my GP.”

A study from Leeds University found that simple intervention with doctors where they were asked to “think twice” before prescribing led to a reduction in the number of prescriptions being given out.

During the 12-month study, 15,000 fewer people were given opioids, which saved the local NHS trust £700,000.

After being left unchecked by her last GP for almost five years, Sana says it was not until she started seeing her current doctor two years ago that things began to change.

She says: “My GP now keeps in mind what my needs are and how my body reacts.

Now they will prescribe a medication to see if it works, and if it doesn’t I can then be referred for different therapies including a pain clinic, acupuncture and physiotherapy.”

The Government has now requested that GPs call in millions of patients for medication reviews to see if they can reduce the amount of prescription drugs people are taking.

We all have a responsibility to look after ourselves and not just rely on prescription medication when we get a lifelong diagnosis.

Sana says: “The money that could be saved with fewer prescriptions could instead be put into mental health services or alternative therapies that could help millions of people.”

London-based GP Dr Zoe Watson says in an ideal world every ­doctors’ practice would have a dedicated pharmacist who continuously and systematically goes through each and every patient’s medications.

But she says: “The reality is that with just £155 a year per patient, most GP practices ­cannot afford the expense.

“There is barely enough funding available to do the very basic requirements for each registered patient.”

Gabriella, a trained nurse, who cannot currently work due to her poor health, has one important piece of advice for other patients to consider

She says: “There is no quick fix, but as a patient if you feel your medication is not right, speak to your GP

“And if in doubt, seek a second opinion. It’s not worth suffering in silence.”

‘I needed to diet not take drugs’

SARAH Dunkley has Type 2 diabetes, menstrual condition anovulatory cycles, anaemia and folic acid and vitamin D deficiencies.

She lives in Gravesend, Kent, with husband Ben, 34, who works for the Ministry of Justice, and their daughters, Eleanor, four, and two-year-old Grace.


Sarah, 34, says: 'I was diagnosed with the conditions in 2016 after I started feeling tired and lethargic all the time and was put on medication for all of them – around five tablets a day.

But I knew my diabetes diagnosis came about because I was overweight.

I weighed almost 19st and was a size 24 and should really have been around 10st 7lb and a size 10.

I took the tablets but knew deep down losing weight could change things.

After being on diabetes drugs for around 18 months, by the summer of 2018 I’d had enough and I spoke to my GP about trying to come off them.

I knew I needed to lose weight and she was really supportive.

My daughter Eleanor was born in 2017 and part of the weight gain was because of pregnancy but I didn’t want to use that as an excuse any more.

Prescription medication can help you manage a health condition but they can’t reverse it – only lifestyle changes can do that.

I switched my diet to a high-protein, low-carb, minimal-fat and no-sugar diet to make sure I was getting enough of the vitamins and nutrients I’m deficient in, and I began exercising daily.

While I lost weight, I also found the exercise and slimming helped to combat the menstrual pains.

Within 18 months, I’d lost 9st, as well as having my second daughter Grace in that time and was completely medication-free.

I felt that with every stone that came off I was gaining years of my life back for me and my daughters – it’s changed my life.

The truth is, we all have a responsibility to look after ourselves and not just rely on prescription medication when we get a lifelong diagnosis.

Prescription medication can help you manage a health condition but they can’t reverse it – only lifestyle changes can do that.

It wasn’t easy taking responsibility though – my medication felt like a safety net and something I could rely on, but now I’m medication-free, I am determined to stay that way.

Stars who were hooked on prescribed drugs

Ant McPartlin

Ant entered rehab in 2018 after painkillers prescribed for a knee injury turned into an addiction.

Lily Allen

Lily was hooked on Adderall, a drug used to treat ADHD.

Lena Dunham

She was taking pain-relieving meds after a hysterectomy.

Top 5 prescribed drugs in the UK

Antidepressants: 7.3million people (17 per cent of the adult population)

Opioid pain medicines: 5.6million (13 per cent)

Gabapentinoids: anti seizure medication, 1.5million (3 per cent)

Benzodiazepines: for anxiety and insomnia, 1.4million (3 per cent)

Z-drugs: for short-term insomnia, 1million (2 per cent)

Signs of prescription drug addiction

  • You constantly think about your medication and when you can take your next dose.
  • You worry about supply issues with your medication.
  • If your GP suggests a review or changing medication you feel uncomfortable, stressed and worried.
  • You do, or would, get your medication from other sources even if it’s unsafe.
  • You’ve experienced personality changes that either you or others around you have noticed.
  • You have trouble sleeping or are sleeping too much.
  • Your personal hygiene has started to suffer.

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