The All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence (for whom CEP provides the secretariat) welcomes Public Health England’s announcement today of an evidence review into prescribed drugs that may cause dependence and withdrawal.
Prescribed drug dependence is a growing problem, with increasing numbers of prescriptions for addictive, psychoactive drugs being given to adults and children. These include benzodiazepines, antidepressants, z-drugs, gaba-ergic drugs (such as gabapentin) and opioid painkillers. A study published by NatCen in 2017 on dependence forming medications showed the rates of prescribing had increased by 50% from 2000 to 2015, with over 9% of the population taking either a benzodiazepine, z-drug, gaba-ergic drug, or opioid.
There is clear evidence that long term use of these drugs can lead to worse outcomes, including persistent withdrawal effects which often lead to disability. Unlike illicit drugs and alcohol, there are hardly any publicly funded services available for sufferers.
In 2016 the APPG launched a campaign for a national 24 hour helpline to support patients affected by prescribed drug dependence, which resulted in a declaration of support for such a helpline signed by the BMA, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Physicians, among others.
Following this campaign, the APPG is pleased that Public Health England now agrees that prescribed drug dependence is a serious public health issue which needs to be addressed.
Paul Flynn MP, chair of the APPG, said: ‘Prescribed drug dependence can have devastating consequences for patients, leading to years of unnecessary suffering and disability following withdrawal from medication which has simply been taken directed by a doctor. The APPG welcomes the proposed evidence review of prescribed drug dependence and withdrawal by Public Health England as a first step towards the commissioning of services, including a national helpline, to support patients affected by this urgent public health issue.’