Doctors call for helpline to support people addicted to prescription drugs

Person using mobile phone

Doctors have called on the UK government to set up a national telephone helpline for people addicted to prescription drugs.

The 24-hour helpline would be similar to the FRANK support service for young people who abuse drugs, and would be part of a wider programme to help patients with prescription drug addiction issues as well as the health professionals looking after them, according to the proposals from the board of science of the British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors. 

The board also wants each of the UK’s four nations and their health organisations to “adequately resource” specialist services for people addicted to prescribed drugs.

National guidance on withdrawal management should also be produced in partnership with professional groups and patients, it proposes.

Andrew Green, a GP and the BMA’s clinical and prescribing policy lead, says: “We believe that establishing a national helpline… should be a top priority to provide better service to individuals with prescribed drug dependence. This would provide vital, timely support and could be introduced relatively quickly.

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

Proper funding for specialist services which can address the specific problems associated with prescription drug addiction is also crucial, he says.

“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.”

The recommendations follow a call for evidence from the BMA and a series of roundtables it hosted to focus on the issue and improve the management of prescribed drug dependence.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, November 2016, Vol 297, No 7895;297(7895):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20201873

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