"Stabilise-reduce, stabilise-reduce" A survey of the common practices of deprescribing services and recommendations for future services

Ruth Cooper, Michael Ashman, Jo Lomani, Joanna Moncrieff, Anne Guy, James Davies, Nicola Morant, Mark Horowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Public Health England recently called for the establishment of services to help people to safely stop prescribed drugs associated with dependence and withdrawal, including benzodiazepines, z-drugs, antidepressants, gabapentinoids and opioids. NICE identified a lack of knowledge about the best model for such service delivery. Therefore, we performed a global survey of existing deprescribing services to identify common practices and inform service development.

METHODS: We identified existing deprescribing services and interviewed key personnel in these services using an interview co-produced with researchers with lived experience of withdrawal. We summarised the common practices of the services and analysed the interviews using a rapid form of qualitative framework analysis.

RESULTS: Thirteen deprescribing services were included (8 UK, 5 from other countries). The common practices in the services were: gradual tapering of medications often over more than a year, and reductions made in a broadly hyperbolic manner (smaller reductions as total dose became lower). Reductions were individualised so that withdrawal symptoms remained tolerable, with the patient leading this decision-making in most services. Support and reassurance were provided throughout the process, sometimes by means of telephone support lines. Psychosocial support for the management of underlying conditions (e.g. CBT, counselling) were provided by the service or through referral. Lived experience was often embedded in services through founders, hiring criteria, peer support and sources of information to guide tapering.

CONCLUSION: We found many common practices across existing deprescribing services around the world. We suggest that these ingredients are included in commissioning guidance of future services and suggest directions for further research to clarify best practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0282988
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Early online date15 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • Humans
  • Deprescriptions
  • Benzodiazepines
  • England
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Antidepressive Agents


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