Benzodiazepine & Opiate Withdrawal Service

Under Review — this page was due to be reviewed by Sunday, 14 April 2024. The information shown here may be outdated.

The Benzodiazepine and Opiate Withdrawal Service (BOWS) in Islington, provided by Camden and Islington (C&I) NHS Trust, 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 patients 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
  • 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. The medications can even increase pain levels and, particularly in high doses/in combination with other medication/in people with underlying health problems, they can be dangerous. 

Benefits of the service

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 patients have been on these medications for a long time, they may well be advised to come off them gradually to reduce any withdrawal symptoms.

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

The following support is offered:

  • full medication reviews and regular follow-up appointments throughout engagement with the service
  • joint-working and access to support and treatment options with pain management services
  • access to psychological support, support groups, counselling, advice and information, and health and wellbeing educational courses
  • referral to an insomnia clinic and access to its specialist treatment and support interventions 
  • regular support from nurse medical prescribers or a specialty doctor.

Eligibility Criteria


  • adult patients being regularly prescribed benzodiazepines, sleeping tablets and opiates who wishes to reduce or stop medication.


  • those receiving palliative care.

How to Refer


Referral methods: Email

If you host a BOWS clinic in the surgery, discuss the patient with the BOWS non-medical prescriber or doctor in the surgery.

If there is no BOWS clinic in the practice, email


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

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Review date: Sunday, 14 April 2024