No support for ‘over the counter addicts’

Date published: 21 January 2009

HEALTH professionals must be trained in spotting medication dependency as sufferers are not getting the support they need, a report warns today.

A year-long study by the All Party Parliamentary Drugs Misuse Group (APPDMG) into dependence on over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription-only medicines (POM) fears not enough is done to help patients.

It says drug treatment services are not geared to help individuals so support groups and online forums are frequently their only source of advice and help.

Dr Brian Iddon, chairman of APPDMG, said: “Our inquiry has only scratched the surface.

“Local drug treatment services are often unable to assist and if their GP is unsympathetic, people can be left to deal with their problems alone.

“Despite clear guidance around the use of benzodiazepines, we heard from many people still in receipt of regular repeat prescriptions, some for years at a time.

“I was also shocked by evidence suggesting that a considerable number of people in the UK are addicted to over-the-counter products containing codeine.”

The group took evidence from medical and addictions specialists, charities, support groups, pharmaceutical companies, trade and regulatory bodies and Barry Haslam, of Uppermill, who lost 10 years of his life to addictive tranquillisers — prescription drug Ativan.

The report says medical students and nurses should be trained to recognise the symptoms of OTC and POM dependency, and the Department of Health should force all primary care trusts to provide appropriate treatment.

Warnings about potential dependence should be included with all products containing codeine.

Mr Haslam, welcomed the report but said it could have called for more: “Words sound good but we want some positive action from the Department for Health.

“I’m disappointed that strategic health authorities are not included as well as primary care trusts, it has been watered down.”

However, he welcomed the suggestion of funding for self-help groups like Tranx, which operates in Oldham.

He added: “We are completely self-funding and never receive a penny off anyone. ”

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