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.
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Use of strong analgesics on the rise
“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.