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White collar workers turn to tranquillisers

UP to 200,000 people, many of them white-collar workers, are popping anxiety and insomnia pills to get through the day.

New figures show that the use of tranquillisers and sedatives is highest among professionals, managers, civil servants and people on welfare.

Women aged over 35 are also more likely than men to use the drugs, the study shows.

The findings -- released in the third National Drug Prevalence Survey -- highlight the steep rise in tranquilliser, sedative and antidepressant use.

Some 7pc of adults are now taking sedatives to get them through the day, up from 5pc last year and 4pc in 2010.

The survey asked people aged 15 to 64 about their drug use.

More than 5,000 people in Ireland and 2,500 in Northern Ireland were questioned.

Some 18pc of professionals, senior managers and top civil servants use sedatives and tranquillisers. The figure was 19pc for those on social welfare.

Some 16pc of those with third-level qualifications used the drugs, compared with 11pc with fewer qualifications.

Dr Fiona Weldon, clinical director at the Rutland Centre, said she is not surprised by the findings, as the Dublin-based rehab centre is attended by all socio-economic groups.

The report by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs found the use of antidepressants was most widespread among the long-term unemployed. Those who left education aged 15 or younger are most likely to use anti-depressants.

Minister for Primary Care, Alex White, said: "Appropriate use of sedatives, tranquillisers and anti-depressants play an important role in facilitating the health and wellbeing of many people.

"But I am concerned about the health risks associated with their inappropriate or long-term use and their more widespread availability."

The findings are to inform the Department of Health's review of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations, with the likelihood that more restrictions will be placed on the sale of sedatives.