It looked at those who had been prescribed at least one of four types of potentially addictive drugs – known as Dependence Forming Medicines – between 2000 and 2015.
The biggest single group of drugs were opioid painkillers which can help relieve pain for cancer patients or those with short-term needs.
The data shows more people are being prescribed these powerful medicines.
In 2015, 5% of patients were receiving regular prescriptions, double the rate when compared with 2000.
Neil Smith, research director at the National Centre for Social Research, said: “This report highlights that a balance needs to be struck between avoiding prescribing that might lead to dependence or other harms and ensuring proper access to medicines to relieve suffering and treat disorders.
“Trends in the extent and duration of opioid prescribing… need close and ongoing monitoring.”
Headaches and nausea
Doctors say that for short-term use, opioid painkillers, such a tramadol, codeine or morphine can be very effective.
But when used over a longer period of time the body develops a tolerance and so that effectiveness declines.
They also come with side-effects including headaches, nausea and constipation as well as being potentially highly addictive.
Experts warn that no-one should stop their medication before seeking the advice of their GP.
But Dr Cathy Stannard, a specialist in pain management, says it is clear that patients using opioid drugs for a long time are often getting little benefit, but suffer all the side-effects.
“I am not suggesting somebody who is benefiting has their drugs removed.
“But out of a population who are taking these drugs, the majority are not benefiting and they should be supported to come off these medicines.”
Today’s report doesn’t contain hard data on addiction but it does indicate there is a growing need to closely monitor the use of these powerful drugs.