MORE than 40 per cent of Oxfordshire patients using prescription medicines have been doing so for at least a year, new analysis of official figures has found.

A review of of Public Health England figures by UK Addiction Treatment Centres, a group of rehab centres, found 47 per cent of antidepressant users and 46 per cent of opioid users in the county were taking them for more than a year.

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Sleeping pills known as 'z drugs' were being prescribed to 44 per cent of users for more than a year, and this was also the case for 40 per cent of people using anti-anxiety drugs.

Nuno Alberquerque, group treatment lead at UKAT, said: "There is no doubt that in the short-term these drugs may help, but long-term use of these drugs, for the majority, will be ineffective because over time the patient is likely to develop physical and psychological tolerance.

"These figures suggest that GPs here are stretched and overwhelmed and need better support and investment to be able to offer alternative treatment therapies like pain clinics, talking therapy, yoga, exercise, diet, and acupuncture to better tackle the root cause of their patients' problems."

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Almost 50,000 patients in Oxfordshire were given antidepressants in March 2018, while almost 18,000 were prescribed opioids.

Opioids can include codeine, morphine and fentanyl.

Public Health England found in September that antidepressant use had almost doubled since 2008, while the number of opioids being prescribed was up by 22 per cent over the same period.