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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-14054: Michelle Ballantyne (South Scotland)

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Date lodged: 24 January 2018

To ask the Scottish Government what information it has regarding how many people are being prescribed medication that could be addictive or difficult to come off.

Answered by: Shona Robison 8 February 2018

The number of patients prescribed medication that could lead to dependence in the 3 month period between September and November in 2017 and 2016 is 512,153. Examples of medicines which fall into this category include:-


  • antihistamines, hyposensitisation, and allergic emergencies;

  • hypnotics and anxiolytics;

  • drugs used in nausea and vertigo;

  • analgesics;

  • antiepileptic drugs; and

  • drugs used in substance dependence.

Using the same time period, the number of patients prescribed medication that could lead to withdrawal effects is 497,682. This category includes those medicines used to treat depression.

The figures are presented separately as anti-depressants are not clinically considered to be addictive, but may cause withdrawal symptoms in some patients.

The figures includes the number of patients in two separate time periods prescribed at least one item from a list of medicines considered to be potentially addictive or causing withdrawal symptoms, and could potentially include patients prescribed medicines from both categories. The analysis shows the most recently available three months data for community prescribing from the Prescribing Information Systems datamart (1 September – 30 November 2017) and the equivalent period from the previous year.

This approach is intended to exclude those patients being prescribed medication to treat short-term conditions where the number of items prescribed is low and likely to represent a low risk of addiction and/or withdrawal symptoms, in line with best clinical practice.

The figure also includes patients for whom long-term prescribing is entirely clinically appropriate, for example those being treated with anti-depressants and analgesics for long-term conditions such as chronic pain and palliative care.

All medicines carry some element of risk. However, the Scottish Government expects clinicians to seek to limit the harm caused by medicines by reducing over-diagnosis and over-treatment, and to manage risk proportionately in active partnership with their patients.