BACP is supporting politicians’ calls for better access to psychological therapies for people with prescription drug dependency.

Welsh Assembly members have urged the country’s government to give a greater priority to tackling prescription drug dependency in Wales.

Their report is in response to a petition submitted in 2017 by Stevie Lewis, who spent 11 years dependent to prescription drugs before going through a long and difficult withdrawal process.

One of the report’s recommendations calls on the Welsh Government to provide assurances that sufficient alternative treatment options to anti-depressants, such as psychological therapies, are available across Wales.

Another recommendation in the report, published by the petitions committee, urges the Government to investigate “as a priority” a national roll out of a service in North Wales, which is closely linked to the area’s counselling service.

The Prescribed Medication Support Service, run by the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, was praised for how it integrates therapy into patients’ personal programmes.

Steve Mulligan, BACP’s Four Nations Policy and Engagement Lead, said:

“We thoroughly support these important calls that highlight the role psychological therapies can play in helping people with prescription drug dependency.

Counselling at its heart

“The Prescribed Medication Support Service puts counselling at the heart of what it offers. We hope the Government will recognise its success and build on that. It would be fantastic to see this rolled out across the country, increasing access to vital talking therapies for those in need.

“The petition and documents that have inspired the Petition committee’s recommendations feature the powerful voices of people who have first-hand experience of how therapy has helped them cope during their withdrawal from drug dependency.

“We hope the government will listen carefully to these testimonies and take vital action to help the thousands of people every year whose lives have been blighted by drug dependency.”

One of the documents submitted with the petition features testimonies from people with a prescription drug dependency who wrote about how therapy had helped them.

One person said: “Having the services of a prescribed medication dependency counsellor was vital, as few others within the NHS took the severity of my withdrawal symptoms seriously. I was also attending a psychodynamic therapy group for the duration of my withdrawal period, having that support was also hugely important to me.”

Another wrote: I feel my only hope is through psychotherapy. I have been awaiting EMDR therapy for over a year now. I never thought that antidepressants could be so addictive. I have learned a hard lesson.

“I hope to withdraw one day but I don't feel I can consider it until I am in therapy. I don't know when I will start EMDR I have waited over a year so far.”

Nationwide, prescriptions for antidepressants are at an all-time high. In 2017, they had increased by 100% since 2015, and 500% since 1992.

There are 297,000 long-term users of benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), temazepam and nitrazepam, and other so-called z-drugs, such as zopiclone and zolpidem, in the UK.

We are currently working with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence (APPG) to help put together guidance for therapists working with clients affected by prescribed psychiatric drugs.

Read more about our policy work across the four nations.