Why is West Norfolk the sleeping pill capital of England?
PUBLISHED: 08:11 18 September 2019 | UPDATED: 13:35 19 September 2019
West Norfolk has been ranked the highest area in the country for sleeping pill prescriptions, as health officials warn of an over-medication crisis plaguing the country.
Figures from Public Health England show the area had the highest percentage of adults - in relation to population size - taking sleeping pills in 2017/18.
The figures show 5,430 people in King's Lynn and the surrounding areas were on the medication for insomnia known as z-drugs - around 4pc of the 142,419 adult population.
That compares to 3pc for the rest of Norfolk.
Doctor Ian Mack, who retired as a GP in Wretton after more than 30 years in the NHS, said there were challenges of patients becoming "habituated" to sleeping pills.
Dr Mack, who was chairman of the West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group's (CCG) governing body until his retirement in 2017, said a large number of people already on prescription medication moved to Norfolk to retire, which increased the numbers.
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"It is challenging to get people to stop that medication," he added.
Doctor Paul Williams, chairman of West Norfolk CCG said pharmacists were working with GPs to reduce the number of prescriptions.
He said: "There are complex and wide-ranging issues surrounding the prescribing of opioid painkillers, benzodiazepines and z-drugs.
"However, we now know that the long-term use of these drugs is not beneficial and may lead to serious side effects."
The study found Norwich had the third highest rate of sleeping pill prescriptions in England, with 5,762 adults on the medication in the city.
The West Norfolk area also ranked sixth out of 195 CCGs for benzodiazepines, a sedative used for anxiety, while Great Yarmouth saw nearly a quarter (24pc) of adults on antidepressants - the fifth highest rate in England.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said last Tuesday that the country was "in the grip of an over-medication crisis".
He said: "I refuse to let this escalate to the level seen in the United States. To be clear, the entire healthcare system will now be involved in making sure we put an end to this, once and for all."