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Preventing addiction to prescription medicines: more work needed on finding the right balance

Drugs medicine

A PACE committee is calling for “a careful balance” to be struck between ensuring patients have access to the prescription medicines they need and preventing addiction to them.

The Assembly’s Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, approving a draft resolution and recommendation based on a report by Joe O’Reilly (Ireland, EPP/CD), said potentially addictive medicines should not be prescribed “too easily or for longer than necessary” and should be part of an appropriate and holistic treatment plan for patients.

It recommended that that the Council of Europe and its member States work with the World Health Organization (WHO) on possible guidance on how to prevent, identify, manage and treat addiction to such drugs.

“Addiction to prescribed medicines is a worldwide problem, which has dramatic consequences for the well-being of the people concerned, as well as that of their families, and comes with a high social and economic cost for society. It has reached epidemic proportions in the US, and is a growing problem in Europe, where it unfortunately remains largely under-researched and under-reported,” the committee pointed out.

The parliamentarians also urged the Council of Europe’s ministerial body to issue a recommendation to member States on patients’ right to “the highest attainable standard of health free of dependency or addiction”.

The report is due to be debated by the plenary Assembly, bringing together MPs from 47 European nations, in March.