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GPs Told To Report Prescription Drug Addicts
GPs should collect anonymous data on patients they believe are addicted to prescription drugs, as part of a crackdown being recommended by MPs.
The Home Affairs Select Committee said there was a lack of data on misuse and supply of prescription drugs for non-medicinal purposes and that the spread and scale of the problem needs to be established.
Further efforts to tackle "doctor-shopping" - when addicts visit multiple practices to request specific drugs - are also needed, the group of MPs said.
The committee heard estimates that as many as 1.5 million people were hooked on prescription drugs in the UK - far higher than the number of those in treatment for addiction to illegal drugs.
Committee chair Keith Vaz MP said: "The abuse of these types of substances is taking place in the shadows and its extent is still unquantified.
"Local GPs need to report their suspicions and collate information to illuminate this problem."
Lack of action would lead to "catastrophic consequences", Mr Vaz said.
In its report, the committee said it recognises the "difficulties" in gathering information on prescription drug addicts due to the "sensitivity of medical data".
But immediate steps still need to be taken to introduce a system whereby anonymous data can be collated to "fully understand where the problem lies", the cross-party group said.
"We recommend that medical practices start an anonymous data collection of those patients who have been proven to be, or a medical professional has reasonable suspicion of being, addicted to prescription drugs and how they are being supplied," the report said.
The MPs recommended that the Royal College of General Practitioners produce guidance for GPs treating addiction to prescription drugs, stating that all cases ought to be recorded on the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System.
Under the previous health service structure, primary care trusts would alert all practices in the local area if there was an individual visiting multiple practices to request specific drugs, the MPs said.
The highlighting of so-called doctor shopping now needs to be "formalised" in order for it to continue with the structural changes in healthcare in UK, the MPs said.
NHS England should issue guidance to local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), so they take on the gathering of data on patients visiting multiple practices to request specific drugs, the report also recommended.
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