ATOMIC: Addiction TO Medication: Improving Care

Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust

This project is under way, and will run until March 2020.

  • Project by Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.
  • Aiming to improve patient care by increasing clinicians’ knowledge and competence in identifying, assessing and managing the misuse of medication by young people.
  • Will involve developing an evidence-based mobile learning app for the health workforce.

Young people’s drug use is changing. There has been a significant increase in the number of young people buying non-prescribed medication online, including benzodiazepines (Xanax) and stimulants used as cognitive enhancers (Modafinil or Ritalin). 

These medications have unpredictable and severe harms, including overdose and dependence. Added to the risks of using medication without prescription or medical supervision, are the risks of mixing them with alcohol and other drugs. Many of these medications are counterfeit and their chemical content and strength cannot be predicted.  

There is a knowledge and experience gap among frontline staff regarding the risks of misuse of such medications, and the harms they can cause are poorly understood.

This innovative learning intervention aims to fill the knowledge gap and develop clinicians’ skills in identifying and responding to the misuse of medication by young people.

A mobile learning app will be developed, delivered through personal devices such as mobile phones. This will make the learning accessible and convenient. The app will cover the range of medication groups (in particular sedatives and stimulants), physical and mental health, and acute and chronic harms. 

The app will be developed by a team of NHS clinicians and researchers with expertise in the misuse of medications. The team will be supported by a multidisciplinary group of experts, including young people, patients and carers. 

The app will be piloted in local young people services within the foundation trust, among doctors, nurses, psychologists, peer support workers and others. It will then be launched nationally. 

Contact information

For more information about this project, please contact Dr Owen Bowden-Jones, Consultant Psychiatrist, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.

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