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London Health Link
Press Release
August 11, 2003

London Health Link, the independent watchdog on London's NHS has produced a report or the experiences of patients who have been prescribed tranquillisers by their family doctors over a long period and the consequences of their resulting dependence on these drugs. This report highlights the tack of help and support from the NHS for people who experience health problems when they are taken off these drugs. For fifteen years1, the Department of Health has been recommending that this group of tranquillisers (benzodiazepines) should only be prescribed for up to four weeks2, yet many patients report much longer use.

Benzodiazepines can be highly addictive and the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse has stated: "They have strong addictive potential, the withdrawal syndrome can be dangerous, and they are known to be a major contributor to deaths from drug misuse.'3

Yet currently there are:

  • no NHS guidelines on withdrawal from long term use,
  • no guidance on what services should be available to people who report problems and
  • no NHS ownership of this problem.

London Health Link is calling for:

  • Compulsory Guidance to the NHS to help patients get off benzodiazepines

  • Monitoring to make sure that the NHS follows the Guidance
  • Services for people who experience problems from long-term benzodiazepine use

Elizabeth Manero, Chair of London Health Link, said these patients have been doubly let down by the NHS. First they have been prescribed these drugs for far too long and become dependent. Secondly the NHS is failing to provide services to them to cope with that dependency. We are calling for this double failure to be addressed properly because we feet that this patient group has been totally neglected.'

The Regional Association of London CHCs
164a Holloway Road, London N7 SDD
Tel: 020 7609 2264 Fax: 020 7609 3018
Chair: Elizabeth Manero · Co-ordinator: Jenny Singleton
Contact: Elizabeth Manero 0207 609 2264, 0208 446 8938

  1. Committee on Safety of Medicines (1988), Current Problems, No. 21
  2. DOH National Framework for Mental Health, 2000
  3. Research into practice No. 2, Jan 2003. National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse

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