I received the following email today in response to my queries about government policy in relation to prescribed drug dependence and benzo withdrawal. I am pleased so see that the issue is being addressed in Scotland. The polypharmacy guidance document includes a section on benzo withdrawal.
Response on behalf of the Scottish Minister for Health
Firstly may I assure you that the Scottish Government takes the issue of prescribed drug dependence very seriously, including treatment and support. I am sorry that you have been suffering from withdrawal symptoms when reducing your benzodiazepine and the affect that this has clearly had on your overall health and wellbeing for such a prolonged period of time.
In your emails you asked about what steps have been taken to address this issue and to support patients who have had a similar experience such as yours. We are aware of the overuse of benzodiazepines some decades ago when patients were prescribed them inappropriately long term, leading to dependence and other problems.
Medical student teaching now emphasises that benzodiazepines have an important place in treatment but should not be overused or continued indefinitely. Furthermore, all GPs prescribing is monitored and discussed individually through annual appraisal. All practice prescribing is monitored by boards, including an annual visit/review and this group of drugs is usually looked at specifically, as it is considered an indicator of good practice (if low).
The auditing of prescribing in mental health commonly occurs involving Health Board pharmacy departments. There is also national annual reporting of prescribing patterns and trends which are carefully considered by Government and other agencies.
Good practice prescribing guidance is available at
NHS Scotland has also published guidance on Polypharmacy which provides guidance for all clinicians on review of longterm medicines and also withdrawing medicines such as benzodiazepines and addressing prescribing of antipsychotic medication which you raise in your email.
It is important that decisions on the type of treatment to prescribe are for clinicians to make in discussion with their patients and to agree upon within the context of the patient’s long term recovery. As mentioned in earlier, all prescribing should be in line with good clinical and prescribing practice and clinicians are encouraged to review a patients medications regularly to ensure their continued clinical appropriateness and to achieve the best possible health outcomes from the medicines they are prescribed.
I trust you will find this response helpful and wish you well in your continuing recovery.