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Dependency Forming Medicines – England – 2022/23

Published 7 September 2023. 


This publication aims to describe the prescribing of dependency forming medicines in a primary care setting in England that are dispensed in the community.

This does not include data on medicines used in secondary care, prisons, or issued by a private prescriber.

was developed in response to the Public Health England (PHE) dependence and withdrawal associated with some prescribed medicines review also known as the prescribed medicines review (PMR) (PDF: 2.9 MB), particularly its recommendation that the availability and use of data on the prescribing of medicines that can cause dependence be increased.

It's intended to produce a national view of prescribing of dependency forming medications for the use of policy makers, the general public and other users, and to be available to answer any high level questions in this area.

This release includes metrics on the volume and cost of prescribing of dependency forming medications. Various demographic breakdowns and breakdowns by Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) quintiles are also be included. Geographical breakdowns by Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) are included in the supporting summary tables.

This is an experimental Official Statistics release.

Key findings

  • In 2022/23, there were 67 million items for dependency forming medicines prescribed in England a 1% decrease from 2015/16.
  • In 2022/23, the cost of dependency forming medicines prescribed in England was £380 million. This was a 51% decrease from 2015/16 when the cost was £780 million.
  • Opioid drugs were the most prescribed dependency forming medicines in England in 2022/23 with 39 million items at a cost of £280 million. The total cost of opioid drugs has decreased by 33% since 2015/16 from £420 million.
  • There were 7.1 million identified patients that were prescribed dependency forming medicines in England in 2022/23. This was a 12% decrease from 8.1 million identified patients in 2015/16.
  • The most common group to receive prescribing for dependency forming medicines in 2022/23 was female patients aged 55 to 59 with 410,000 identified patients.
  • Areas of greater deprivation had the highest number of identified patients who were being prescribed dependency forming medication in 2022/23, with 56% more patients receiving prescribing in the most deprived areas of the country compared to the least deprived.

Resource list 

Dependency Forming Medicines 2022/23 - Statistical Summary Narrative (HTML)

Costs and items summary tables (Excel: 206KB)Patient demographics summary tables (Excel: 171KB)

Background information and methodology note (HTML)

Pre-release access list (HTML)


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Responsible statistician: Graham Platten