'Hundreds of thousands of people in England are getting hooked on prescription drugs, health chiefs fear.
A Public Health England review looked at the use of strong painkillers, antidepressants and sleeping tablets - used by a quarter of adults every year.
It found that at the end of March 2018 half of people using these drugs had been on them for at least 12 months.
Officials said long-term use on such a scale could not be justified and was a sign of patients becoming dependent.
PHE medical director Prof Paul Cosford said he was worried.
"These medicines have many vital clinical uses and can make a big difference to people's quality of life."
But he added there were too many cases where patients were using them for longer than "clinically" appropriate - where the drugs would have simply stopped working effectively or where the risks could outweigh the benefits.
"We need to make sure people are helped to access alternative treatments," he added.
Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, of the Royal College of GPs, said doctors did not like prescribing medication long-term, but were sometimes left with no choice.
"What it indicates is the severe lack of alternatives."
NHS England said investment was being made in services such as talking therapies and so-called social prescribing, which includes exercise classes and arts-based activities, that could be more appropriate.'
Read more: Too many hooked on prescription drugs - health chiefs
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