Sunday 24 September 2017

Rise in abuse of sedatives prompts call for guideline review

Grainne Cunningham

THE days of the frazzled housewife popping "mother's little helper" are long gone.

Today's pill popper is more often male and valium is probably not the only drug he's abusing.

A report, published yesterday, revealed that the misuse of sedative drugs benzodiazepines -- known as benzos -- was on the rise nationally and the impact of misusing the drug could all too often be fatal.

Benzos, which are commonly prescribed to treat insomnia, anxiety and seizures, were responsible for one-third of all deaths from drug poisoning between 1998 and 2007.

The latest figures presented by the Health Research Board showed that the annual number of cases treated for benzo abuse rose by over 63pc, from 1,054 in 2003 to 1,719 in 2008.

Co-author of the report Delphine Bellerose stressed that the number of deaths where benzos played a role did not include cases where the victim simply tested positive for the drug but "where benzodiazepine was indicated as part of the cause of death".

She also expressed concern at the "sharp increase in young people reporting for treatment" where benzos were the main drug -- from 1pc in 2003 to 18pc in 2008. The authors said their findings demonstrated an urgent need to review clinical guidelines and regulatory controls.

But Ide Delargy of the Irish College of General Practitioners said the data related to people who attended drug treatment services and who were already abusing multiple drugs.

"This is not representative of the general public," she said.

While small, the number of people reporting benzos as their main problem drug is rising, from 76 in 2003 to 167 in 2008, a 120pc increase.

Benzo abuse was highest in Dublin and in the southern region including counties Kerry and Cork.

Irish Independent

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