BAT began in January 1986, as a small self-help group of people who were struggling with benzodiazepine tranquillisers drug dependence and withdrawal, meeting once a week in St James Church in the centre of Bristol. In 1986 Bristol Drugs Project opened-its first office and contacted BAT offering a room in which to hold our support groups. We remained with them until we were contacted by Susan Britton Wills to have our support group at The General hospital.
BAT continued to grow and in March 1996 became a registered charity. We were recognised for our services and won the regional (south west) gold medal in ‘Medical Community Award’ in 1991 by the Association of British insurers. By this time BAT had gained a reputation of expertise in the field of withdrawing from Benzo’s and other prescribed drugs and were invited to worked with the Bristol Mental Health Trust and others to develop an Integrated Care Plan approach for Bristol, this was the beginning of a real structure for clients in mental health services. That year the Pompidou Report (United Nations Economic and Social Commission on Narcotic Drugs) produced a report which recommended that for every new benzodiazepine prescription issued, it should include an exit strategy.
- BAT inputted into Dual Diagnosis profile-raising and service improvement and BAT’s coordinator was the Dual Diagnosis lead for South Gloucestershire Drug and Alcohol Services.
- BAT was part of the Addiction to Medicines Consensus Statement 2013.
- We produced the Benzodiazepine Guidance for the South Gloucestershire Council 2013.
- BAT continues to be a stakeholder in the Department of Health’s working group looking at setting up best practice Benzodiazepine services throughout the UK.
- In 2014 we collaborated with British Medical Association’s (BMA) Board of Science and stakeholders to support the development of an improved policy framework for the prevention, identification and management of involuntary dependence to prescription medications
- In 2018 BAT was asked by Public Health England to respond to a call for evidence on ‘dependence, short term discontinuation and longer-term withdrawal symptoms associated with prescribed medicines’ which gave us the opportunity to look more closely at our service user statistics.
- We are a stakeholder for the NICE guideline on safe prescribing and withdrawal management of prescribed drugs associates with dependence and withdrawal.
- Our total successful exits of people who have reduced or drug free is 90%. This contrasts to Public Health England (PHE) overall successful exits of 49% in 2016-17. Return to service PHE reports that of those in treatment on the 31 March 2017, a third (29%) were in treatment continuously since their initial commencement. 34% had more than three attempts at treatment. By contrast BAT has had only 3 returns to service in 3 years. We believe this is because our specialist advice ensures the service users do not leave the service without the knowledge and support, they need. BAT’s phone support line on average receives approximately 390 incoming calls a month.