Doctors are calling for more action on prescription drug addiction

Doctors have set out a three-point plan to help patients addicted to prescription drugs, including the creation of a new national helpline.

The plan has been suggested as a result of research carried out by the British Medical Association’s Board of Science in collaboration with a range of other medical organisations, support groups and charities, into the growing problem of prescription drug dependence.

The research looked at a number of drugs including benzodiazepines, z-drugs, opioids, and anti-depressants. More than 70 million prescriptions were issued in 2015 at a cost of £340m. Prescriptions for anti-depressants alone have doubled over the past decade, the research found.

The BMA set out their recommendations in a letter to the Public Health minister, Nicola Blackwood.

The Chair of the BMA’S Board of Science, Parveen Kumar, said:

 “The provision of services for these patients is inconsistent across the country and it is clear that a national approach for services and guidance is needed.

‘These patients suffer devastating health problems caused by prescribed drugs,We would like the Government to play its part in providing this much-needed support.’

The recommendations put forward in the letter are:

  • ·         the creation of a round-the-clock helpline for prescribed drug dependence
  • ·         a national strategy for specialist services for patients addicted to such medication
  • ·         more robust guidance on managing patients’ withdrawal from drugs.

Helpline top priority

GPC clinical and prescribing policy lead Andrew Green said the new national helpline should be a ‘top priority’ and could be modelled on FRANK, the advisary service for people addicted to illegal drugs.

‘This would provide vital, timely support and could be introduced relatively quickly,’ he added.

‘Doctors would also welcome more robust guidance on managing prescription medicine dependence and withdrawal. 

‘There is also the need for specialist services to be consistently available across the country, as patients are often referred to general drug and alcohol services, which do not have adequate resources, and whose skills are different to those needed to manage prescription drug dependence. 

‘This would ensure patients, carers and families have access to trusted and expert advice and support.’



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