More must be done by the Government to help ease the suffering of people with long-term pain, according to a report from the Patients Association.
Many people are unaware of how to take pain medicine properly and have no knowledge of potential side effects, a survey of about 4,400 members of public found.
About one third of the 1,200 people with chronic pain are not taking the drugs as prescribed to them. A total of 57 per cent were in the dark about potential side effects, and many did not understand how to use their medication.
Chronic pain is defined as continuous pain lasting 12 weeks or more, and as many as eight million people in the UK are thought to suffer with it, the study said.
Yet there is only one pain specialist for every 32,000 sufferers, according to the Public Attitudes to Pain report, the biggest of its kind on pain.
Around a quarter (27 per cent) of all people had experienced chronic pain at some point in the last five years but many were unaware of specialist pain services.
Of those with chronic pain, only 23 per cent had been referred to a specialist who manages pain.
GPs were frequently the main contact but many people felt they could not ask their doctors about side effects for fear of reproach.
Dr Beverly Collett, chair of the Chronic Pain Policy Coalition forum, said it was vital to ensure proper education of NHS staff.
"During their five to six years of medical school, doctors spend just 13 hours on pain; this is simply not enough time to understand the complex problem presented by chronic pain."
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