CEP today welcomes the publication of a report by Public Health England which recognises for the first time the scale of prescribing of drugs that can cause dependence and withdrawal. The report shows that one in four adults in England has been prescribed a benzodiazepine, z-drug, gabapentinoid, opioid or antidepressant in the past twelve months, with up to a third of these receiving a prescription for at least three years. Prescribing rates are significantly higher in deprived areas of England, while women and older adults have the highest rates.
The report is the culmination of over five years of work by CEP, which has focused on this issue since being founded in 2014. CEP provides the secretariat for the APPG for Prescribed Drug Dependence, which played a pivotal role in the commissioning and development of the report.
CEP is pleased to note that the report contains recommendations which CEP and the APPG have long campaigned for, including:
- A 24 hour national helpline and associated website to provide expert advice and support, also acting as a resource for patients and doctors to support shared decision-making
- Updated clinical guidance as well as new guidance on management of dependence and withdrawal, and improved training to ensure clinicians adhere to this guidance
- Provision of better information to patients about risks and benefits of these medicines, as well as alternatives such as social prescribing
- Further research into the nature and severity of withdrawal, and the treatment of dependence and withdrawal, caused by prescribed drugs
- Appropriate support from the NHS for patients experiencing dependence and withdrawal problems, including dedicated support services
- Review of the training and educational resources for practitioners in relation to prescribed drug dependence and withdrawal
CEP and the APPG will now continue to work to ensure the implementation of these recommendations.