The Committee on Safety of Medicines issued advice to all prescribing doctors in 1988, stating that benzodiazepines were indicated only in the very short term (2-4 weeks) and only for disabling anxiety and insomnia. Despite this, some doctors are still prescribing benzodiazepines to new patients for indefinite periods. Nationally little has been done to reduce the huge numbers of people addicted, although particular efforts have been made in some areas (e.g. Bristol).
Prescribing of antidepressants has quadrupled over the past 20 years. In 2018, community pharmacists in England issued 70.9 million prescriptions for antidepressants. It has been estimated that over 4 million people in England are taking antidepressants regularly. This number is increasing by 10% every year and there is no sign of this trend changing.
Over the past 15 years, the Committee on Safety of Medicines has received an unprecedented number of reports about dependence-related problems with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other new antidepressants. The SSRI's and other new antidepressants account for the 5 of the 6 top drugs for which withdrawal reactions have been reported worldwide.
There were nearly 10 million prescriptions of benzodiazepines by community pharmacists in 2018 in England alone (roughly just under half of these prescriptions were for Z drugs). It has been estimated that there are around 2 million chronic users in England and Wales (i.e. people taking drugs for 4 months or more). There has been a 29% increase in prescriptions for Diazepam alone over the last 12 years. There has been a significant increase over the past 20 years in the prescribing of the newer sleeping tablets (Zopiclone, Zopidem and Zaleplon). Pharmacists issued over 10 million prescriptions for sleeping tablets in 2011 (roughly half of these were for the Z drugs and half for benzodiazepines). In England in the year 2017 to 2018, 1 in 4 adults in England were prescribed benzodiazepines, z-drugs, gabapentinoids, opioids for chronic non-cancer pain, or antidepressants.
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Bristol and District Tranquilliser Project is a company limited by guarantee (No: 5126531) and is a charity registered in England and Wales (No: 1104033). The Project is funded by Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucester (BNSSG) Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and other charitable organisations named under sponsorship.