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New service for people suffering from online-bought drugs and medications


29 January 2018

For immediate publication

New service for people suffering from online-bought drugs and medications


CNWL is launching a new service to help tackle growing problems surrounding the misuse of online purchased prescription-only medications (POMs) or illicit drugs.


The Addiction to Online Medicine (AtOM) service will be the first service in the UK focusing specifically on the harm caused by medication or illicit drugs bought from the internet and will provide treatment for people within the tri-borough area of Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham who are experiencing problems with these drugs.


The service will be run as a 12 month pilot from within CNWL's Club Drug Clinic in Warwick Road, Earl's Court to help understand the nature of problem and the level of need.


People can refer themselves to the service or be referred by a health professional such as their GP. The AtOM service offers a detailed assessment followed by a clinical plan to help people achieve the changes they identify. The clinical team includes doctors, nurses, psychologists, family therapists and a mindfulness practitioner who work together to develop a specific plan for each individual.


This pilot comes amid growing concerns about the growth of online pharmacies selling fake and counterfeit medicine; in 2010 the World Health Organisation identified this as "a growing threat to public health around the world". The estimated value of the counterfeit medicine trade globally is estimated to be £55bn annually.


UK and international reports suggest there is a growth in the use of online-purchased POMs medications as well as illicit drugs.  Some people will have bought these medications to self-manage existing health conditions while others will want to misuse the psychoactive effects. Those who misuse such medications can experience a range of complex physical and mental health problems related to the medications.


These could include:


  • Dependence and withdrawal

  • Accidental overdose

  • Harm from counterfeit or adulterated medicine

  • Interaction between different prescribed/non-prescribed/ illicit drugs


Certain populations appear to be attracted to particular medications. Reported populations include:

  • Students

  • Individuals suffering chronic pain

  • People in custodial settings

  • People with mental health problems

  • Young people misusing medications to enhance effects of alcohol

Consultant Psychiatrist and Club Drug Clinic founder Dr Owen Bowden-Jones said: "The evidence suggests this is a rapidly growing problem that warrants urgent attention. The AtOM service is a free, easy to access, innovative response to the health harms caused by online purchased medication. CNWL's Club Drug Clinic has an established reputation of working with emerging drug trends and in particular with people using the internet and social media to purchase both medication and illicit drugs."


Editors' notes

  • Prevalence on use is difficult to quantify, but Crime Survey of England and Wales 15/16 suggests that 7.5 per cent of 16-59 year olds have taken a POM painkiller not prescribed to them in the last year.Most took the medication for pain relief (2.4 million) while only a small number intended to misuse the medicine (33,000).

  • Of those intending to misuse the POM painkiller only 15.3 per cent reported misusing another drug.

  • In comparison, 85 per cent of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) users reported misusing another drug.


For more details:

Contact Senior Communications Officer Jeremy Dunning on 0203 214 5756 or

Details about the service are on:


Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust
Stephenson House, 75 Hampstead Road, London NW1 2PL
Tel: 020 3214 5756 e-mail: