The British Medical Association held a meeting on 25 February to agree actions required to tackle prescribed drug dependence, covering benzodiazepines, z-drugs, antidepressants and opiate painkillers. This follows the BMA’s request for evidence on this issue in 2014, which led to the publication of their analysis report last year.
The meeting was chaired by Baroness Hollins and included representatives from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Physicians, NICE, Public Health England, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the Royal College of Nursing, the General Medical Council, as well as a number of withdrawal charities (REST Project, BAT, The Bridge Project, ADS, Recovery & Renewal). Dr Joanna Moncrieff, Dr James Davies and Prof Peter Kinderman also attended, and in total there were five members from the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry.
Luke Montagu, co-founder of CEP, gave a short talk at the start.
Following the meeting, the BMA has issued a document which details the agreed areas for action. These include:
- calling for a national helpline for prescribed drug dependence
- writing to NICE proposing a review of the effects of withdrawal from psychoactive prescribed drugs
- establishing a working group with the aim of establishing a multi-disciplinary quality standard guideline for prescribing
- undertaking a pilot of the best way to fund and commission local specialist prescribed drug withdrawal services
- lobbying for changes to the Prescribing Safety Assessment, part of the Year 1 medical curriculum
- incorporating patient experiences within relevant training programmes
- proposing areas of additional research to funding organisations, to include research on withdrawal and the harms associated with prescribed drug dependence
The BMA has allocated responsibility for following up these actions to relevant attendees and intends to hold a second meeting in June to assess progress.