A Growing Epidemic: Overuse of Medication in the Czech Republic

Hundreds of thousands of people in the Czech Republic are taking more medication than needed, with no improvement in sight. The situation is particularly prevalent among women, especially in the case of painkillers and sedatives. Alarmingly, school students are also reaching for these drugs, seeking to alter their mood. Experts are warning against the combination of drugs with alcohol and obtaining them through unofficial channels or online.

“We are observing a steady increase in the number of people abusing drugs or with problems escalating into addiction,” said Petr Popov, head of the Clinic of Addictology at the General Faculty Hospital, in a recent interview. The misuse or abuse of psychoactive drugs is reported among approximately 740,000 to 1.2 million people over the age of 15 in the Czech Republic. This information is according to this year’s Report on Problematic Use of Psychoactive Drugs.

The problem is most acute among older women, who often reach for pain-suppressing drugs. Popov explains, “Men have a higher pain threshold. Women more frequently use analgesics and various sedative substances. It does not have to be just extremely severe pain that requires the use of opioids, but perhaps even a headache.”

Inappropriate usage of medication is seen as taking too many drugs too often and in contradiction to a doctor’s recommendations. One of the problems highlighted in the report is the way sedatives, hypnotics, and opioid analgesics are being obtained. They are not always prescribed and are often acquired through acquaintances.

Lastly, experts are raising awareness about experiments by schoolchildren. They are gaining access to sleep medications or painkillers without medical supervision. Some of them combine these with alcohol, which, in extreme cases, can cause heart failure. The situation varies according to the types of schools the children attend, with the highest proportion of teenagers having experience with sedatives and painkillers being in vocational high schools.