Benzodiazepine addiction is a serious issue for many, with some users becoming addicted after a single dose. A GP from Cork in Ireland has called for the higher dosage tablets of these drugs to be taken off the market to try to reduce their availability as street drugs.

Usage of Benzodiazepines

These drugs have calming and sedative effects and have been prescribed since the 1960s for the treatment of various disorders including insomnia, anxiety, and seizures. Initially, the medical profession was not fully aware of their potential for addiction, and so they were very widely used. Some patients prescribed these drugs thirty or forty years ago are still receiving prescriptions for them today. Benzodiazepines are still prescribed for these disorders today, with the most commonly recognised types probably being diazepam, lorazepam and temazepam. They are effective in treating anxiety in particular, but patients can quickly build up a tolerance to their sedative effects, resulting in the need for higher doses to achieve the same results – an effect that is seen when these drugs are used recreationally too.

Concern Over Levels of Addiction

Dr Nick Flynn is a GP based at Holyhill Surgery in Cork, Ireland. He has become concerned about the levels of usage of benzodiazepines, the number of patients he sees with an addiction to benzodiazepines, and the levels of drug-related deaths he sees among patients at the surgery.

The surgery has five thousand patients registered with them, and Dr Flynn says that around seven hundred of these are dependent on benzodiazepines, approximately fourteen per cent of their patients. He says that they also have five or six young people each year dying of drug overdoses, including to benzodiazepines, or a mixture of them with other drugs.

The patients with benzodiazepine addiction are of all ages, and some have been on a prescription for these drugs for as long as forty years. Many of the dependent patients have become addicted to the drugs after having been prescribed them for a number of years, but some have become addicted after taking them as street drugs. Yet others have been given them by family members prescribed the drugs themselves, usually to help them sleep.

A Lucrative Business

Benzodiazepine tablets are typically prescribed in one of three doses: 2mg tablets, 5mg tablets or 10mg tablets. For those who sell these drugs on the streets, a 5mg tablet will fetch around 50 cents (43 pence at the time of writing) while a 10mg tablet fetches €2 (£1.74). This means that someone selling a 10mg tablet to a customer using three tablets a day could make €168 (£146.05) per month, a significant amount of money. Particularly for someone who might be surviving on benefits but receiving a prescription for benzodiazepines.

Dr Flynn says that it is quite easy to tell when a patient is selling his or her prescription drugs. Tell-tale signs include returning for repeat prescriptions early, claiming they have ‘lost’ their medication, and insisting on receiving the highest dosage tablets, with excuses given as to why they need these. Some patients with an addiction to benzodiazepines or who are selling their tablets will also visit several different doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions.

Ways to prevent this happening include providing phased prescriptions so that patients have to visit the pharmacist more frequently and so will not have large numbers of tablets at one time, and having a central database of medications prescribed so that patients cannot obtain the same prescriptions from different doctors at the same time.

Problem Created Decades Ago

Dr Flynn explains that the problem of benzodiazepine addiction in many patients was created a long time ago. He has been practising as a GP for almost twenty years, but many of his patients have been taking benzodiazepines on prescription for thirty years or more.

When these drugs were first created, they were considered an excellent treatment for anxiety and depression, and the long-term side effects of benzodiazepines were not known. And they were frequently prescribed, particularly to women, being labelled as ‘mother’s little helper’.

Today, doctors are much warier of prescribing benzodiazepines. The problems of addiction and tolerance are widely documented, and so they are used only when necessary. Unfortunately, many patients who have used the drugs for a long time are very resistant to stopping, with some even becoming violent when it is suggested that they should come off the benzodiazepines.

Support to Stop

If you have an addiction to benzodiazepines, then quitting can be very difficult. There are symptoms of withdrawal from benzodiazepines, but once stopped, mental and physical health will improve. If you think that you or a loved one might be struggling with an addiction to benzodiazepines, then please contact us today. At Addiction Helper, we can help you to find the help and support that you need to successfully recover from your addiction.

Source:  GP Warns of Xanax and Prescription Drugs for Sale on Streets of Cork (The Evening Echo)