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Over-prescription of Benzodiazepines a growing problem – Cullinane

22 September, 2011

Speaking at a Joint Meeting of the Oireachtas Health and Children Committee Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane challenged the Minister of State Roisin Shorthall to do more to deal with the growing problem of addiction to prescription drugs.

Senator Cullinane expressed concern at the over-prescription of certain drugs such as benzodiazepines and the unwillingness of some GPs to engage with local and national drug strategies.

Addressing the Minister Senator Cullinane said:

“Benzodiazepines are a sedative drug which is legally available on prescription. They are prescribed to reduce anxiety, stress, encourage sleep or to relax muscles. However they can also cause short term effects such as depressing the nervous system and slowing down the body. They can lead to laziness, drowsiness and forgetfulness. They are also dangerous when taken with other drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

“A 2010 report into the use and availability of Benzo’s using data recorded by the National Drug Treatment Reporting System shows that between 2003 and 2008 the use of benzo’s has increased dramatically. In the period between 2003 and 2008 the annual number of treated cases reporting a benzo as a problem substance rose by 63%. The number of cases reporting benzo as an additional problem was much larger and increased by 59%. Between 1998 and 2007 benzos were implicated in 649 deaths by poisoning.

“These figures point to the need to act. The Minister needs to comprehensively deal with this issue by obtaining data from the HSE and examining prescription problems. I welcome the Minister’s comments that there is an issue regarding over-prescription and her commitment to establish an in-house team to engage with GPs.

“It is however important to point out that it is community based drugs programmes operating at the coal-face who are best placed to deal with these issues. It is vital that all drug users have access to services and treatment when required. This means more detox beds across the state. It is vital that funding for drugs projects is ring-fenced as any further cuts will impact on service delivery and preventative programmes.” ENDS

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