This week NHS England announced a new framework for local health and care providers to reduce inappropriate prescribing of high-strength painkillers and other addiction-causing medicines.
Dr Emily Finch, Chair of the Addictions Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:
“We know high-strength painkillers and other addiction-causing medicines have the potential to be harmful if patients become dependent on them for a long period of time.
“It is good to see the NHS is providing clinicians with more support so that they can review the use of such drugs and identify when they are no longer the most clinically appropriate form of treatment before a patient becomes addicted.
“We must also make sure that support is available to patients who are already struggling with an addiction that is related to their medication. We need properly funded and resourced treatment and recovery services that can provide effective interventions.
“While antidepressants do not share the addictive properties of known dependence-producing drugs, such as benzodiazepines, it is best to stop them slowly as they can cause both withdrawal symptoms. Clinicians treating someone who is taking antidepressants should regularly review whether they are still providing benefits or might no longer be needed.
“Medicines can be lifesaving for patients, but in all treatments – from Cancer to heart disease - medicines which do good can also do harm.
“However, it is vitally important that no one suddenly stops taking any medication. If you are worried about your prescription, including any effects on your health, speak to your doctor who can provide advice.”