Decision aid for patients taking benzodiazepines or Z-drugs

  • Date: 21 June 2023

A DECISION aid to support patients taking benzodiazepines or Z-drugs (zolpidem or zopiclone) has been published by NICE to help understanding of the benefits and risks of reducing or stopping the medications.

The decision aid, along with a one-page summary, is the latest addition to the NICE Medicines associated with dependence or withdrawal symptoms: safe prescribing and withdrawal management for adults guideline published last year. GPs and clinical pharmacists are being asked to provide patients with a personalised review of their medicines so they can make an informed, shared decision about whether a change in treatment is appropriate.

NICE says changes to reduce prescriptions are already having an impact with the number of people prescribed a benzodiazepine falling by 20 per cent between 2017/18 and 2020/21. Z-drug prescribing showed a 2.3 per cent reduction over the same period.

Efforts are being directed at high-strength painkillers and other addiction-causing medicines, like opioids and benzodiazepines, where they may no longer be the most clinically appropriate treatment and, in some cases, may be potentially harmful. Clinicians are encouraged to discuss and offer people alternatives, including psychotherapy, sleep clinics and social activities or clubs before prescribing.

Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “As with many other medications, we need to balance the potential benefits and risks of harm from starting, continuing and stopping benzodiazepines and Z-drugs. This guide will help individuals have discussions with their clinicians about potential risks and benefits of these medications."

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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