Intended for healthcare professionals


Tackle prescription drug dependency with improved clinician training, says review

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 10 September 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5497
  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

A landmark report into prescription drugs that have a risk of dependency has concluded that more high quality research is needed on withdrawal effects—especially of antidepressants—as well as on the harms of dependence and withdrawal and how to avoid them.

Public Health England’s major review of prescribed drugs1 is the first of its kind. Commissioned by the government in 2017, it looked at dependence on benzodiazepines, z drugs, gabapentinoids, opioids for chronic non-cancer pain, and antidepressants.

It found that one in four adults in England—11.5 million people—were prescribed at least one of these classes of drugs in primary care in the year ending March 2018. Of those receiving a prescription in March 2018, between 22% and 32% (depending on the medicine class) had been taking the drugs for at least the previous three years.

Altogether 930 000 people in England were continuously prescribed antidepressants from April 2015 to March 2018 while 540 000 were continuously prescribed an opioid. …

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