Short Life Working Group on Prescription Medicine Dependence and Withdrawal recommendations: Scottish Government response

This paper details the final agreed recommendations from the Short Life Working Group on Prescription Medicine Dependence and Withdrawal as amended following the consultation.


In response to a public petition in Scotland and work undertaken by Public Health England (PHE) to review dependence and withdrawal associated with some prescribed medicines, the Scottish Government established a short life working group (SLWG), chaired by Irene Oldfather from the Alliance. The group was asked to look at the scale of the issues in Scotland and the recommendations from the PHE report in the Scottish context, and with consideration of Scottish data. Membership of the SLWG included clinical, pharmacy and nursing representation from the professions as well as professional bodies, patients with lived experience, patient organisations, SIGN, Public Health Scotland and academia.

The group sought to identify the scale, distribution and underlying contributors to prescription drug dependence and what might be done to address this in Scotland.

The review covered adults (aged 18 and over) and 5 classes of medicines:

  • Benzodiazepines (mostly prescribed for anxiety and/or insomnia)
  • Z-drugs (sleeping tablets with effects similar to benzodiazepines)
  • Gabapentin and pregabalin (together called gabapentinoids and used to treat epilepsy, neuropathic pain and, in the case of pregabalin, anxiety disorders)
  • Opioids for chronic non-cancer pain
  • Antidepressants (for depression, anxiety disorders and neuropathic pain).



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