BMA urges helpline for patients addicted to prescription drugs

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The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for a 24-hour helpline to be introduced for patients who are addicted to prescription drugs.

The group believes it could help tackle problems created when strong tranquillisers prescribed for short-term use, to treat issues such as anxiety and insomnia, are issued for longer periods.

Dr Andrew Green, the BMA's GP clinical and prescribing policy lead, described dependence on the powerful prescription drugs as a "widespread problem" which sometimes involves patients who are upset at having been harmed by treatments which they hoped would help them.

Dr Green said services need to be "specifically designed" for this group of people as they may feel out-of-place if they are referred to existing services which are aimed at cocaine or methadone users.

He told BBC Breakfast: "The situation has been made worse because they have come to the NHS for help and they have found that the services are not available for them.

"We have even had some patients say they feel they are being blamed for the situation that they find themselves in."

Benzodiazepines - taken for severe anxiety, insomnia and sometimes pain relief - are a particular concern.

Disturbed sleep, personality changes, blunted emotions and people feeling they are struggling to manage their lives are among the potential side-effects of the drugs.