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Benzodiazepine and Opiate Withdrawal Service (BOWS)


The Benzodiazepine and Opiate Withdrawal Service (BOWS) provides specialist support for people who are being prescribed benzodiazepines and opiates by their GP and are seeking additional support to reduce and/or stop their use.

Why should you reduce or stop these medications?

Long-term use of benzodiazepines, opiates, z-drugs and gabapentinoids can give rise to many unwanted side effects including poor concentration and impaired memory; anxiety and depression; hormonal changes; immune suppression and increased risk of falls and breathing problems. With time, these medications often work less well for the original problem they were prescribed for such as pain and insomnia and people can become dependent on them. They can even increase pain levels. In addition, particularly in high doses and in combination with other medications, or in people with underlying health problems, they can be dangerous. 

The benefits

Clinical experience has shown that people often feel better coming off their medications and report an overall improvement in their mood and general wellbeing. If you have been on these medications for a long time you may well be advised to come off them gradually to reduce any withdrawal symptoms.

Set in GP surgeries in Camden and Islington, the specialist team works alongside the GP to identify and help patients that are on long-term repeat prescriptions of benzodiazepines, sleeping tablets and opiates and help them to develop the skills necessary to stop their medication and manage any underlying issues, while overseeing the reduction regimes for those who wish to reduce or stop their medications.

The following support is offered:

  • medication reviews and follow-ups: full medication reviews and regular follow-up appointments throughout engagement with the service
  • pain clinics: joint working and access to support and treatment options with Camden and Islington Pain Management Services
  • specialist psychosocial support: access to psychology, support groups, counselling, advice and information and health and wellbeing educational courses
  • insomnia clinic: referral to the Insomnia Clinic and access to their specialist treatment and support interventions 
  • regular support from nurse medical prescribers or a specialty doctor
  • advice or temporarily taking overprescribing of the reducing medications

See Downloads for further information about this service.

Eligibility criteria


  • any adult patient that is being regularly prescribed benzodiazepines, sleeping tablets and opiates who wishes to reduce or stop their medications
  • resident of Camden or registered with a Camden GP


  • those receiving palliative care

How to refer


If you host a BOWS clinic in the surgery, discuss with or email the BOWS NMP or Doctor in the surgery.

If there is no BOWS clinic in the practice, email bows.referrals@candi.nhs.uk


Patients can self-refer to a BOWS clinic that is in the GP surgery.

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Review date: Wednesday, 07 June 2023