Psychopharmacological treatment of young people with substance dependence: a survey of prescribing practices in England

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Backround:Prescribing for substance-dependent youth requires expert knowledge of developmental and contextual issues and use of largely unlicensed medicines. This first national survey aimed to determine the nature of pharmacological treatments delivered in England including the extent of maintenance therapy, supervised consumption and specialties prescribing.Method:Data were gathered regarding opiate substitutes & other medications prescribed for opiate, alcohol & benzodiazepine dependence, drug & alcohol relapse prevention and comorbidities. Evidence of distinct approaches to younger compared with older adolescents was sought.Results:The overall response rate was 73%. The majority treated were over 16 years. 85% treatments were opiate substitute therapies; many received longer term maintenance therapy. Prescribing for alcohol dependence & comorbidity was low; the largest prescribing group were General Practitioners.Conclusions:Questions remain about the scale of youth dependence, the use of substitute agents in maintenance treatment and the number of adolescent addiction specialists in the treatment cadre.

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