New research reveals some psychiatric drugs are overprescribed twelvefold

According to research by Dr James Davies and Dr Todd Rae from Roehampton's Department of Life Sciences, over a quarter of a million people in the UK have been using Benzodiazepines, which treat a range of conditions including anxiety, insomnia and panic disorders, for at least twelve times longer than the recommended period of two to four weeks.

Posted: 18 January 2017

image for news story New research reveals some psychiatric drugs are overprescribed twelvefold

While the British National Formulary (BNF) indicates these drugs should be used for two to four weeks only, over a quarter of a million people in the UK have been prescribed these drugs for twelve months or longer. Over 76% have been taking these drugs for more than six years.

Taking Benzodiazepines for longer than their intended four-week maximum use, can lead to dependence and produce adverse effects which make it harder to recover. Long-term usage is associated with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, as well as problems such as irritability, tinnitus and sleeplessness. Withdrawal symptoms can last years as a result of using these drugs for an extended period.

Dr Davies comments, "Over 15% of the UK adult population are taking psychiatric drugs at any given time, and there were around 61 million prescriptions for antidepressants in England alone last year. We seem to be in the midst of a prescribing epidemic.

"Side effects and withdrawals from Benzodiazepines can be very severe, lasting for months – sometimes years – often leading to disability and sometimes suicide, but there are no NHS services to help people withdraw from these or other psychotropic medications, which is something that needs to be considered."

The research was undertaken in conjunction with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence and has featured in a number of news outlets including the BBC, Daily Mail and New Scientist.

The University's Department of Life Sciences offers outstanding undergraduate courses in a range of subjects including Anthropology and Biomedical Science.

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