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Solutions to the tranquilliser trap

Letters to The Times,
Professor Lader,
October 6, 2012

We should be discouraging the use of benzodiazepines, and expanding the network of specialist clinics, not curtailing it

Sir, I welcome the careful reporting of the use of the benzodiazepine tranquillisers (October 1, and October 2). This controversy has grumbled on since the first alarms were raised by my research team, among others, in the 1970s. Official warnings have been largely ignored by the prescribers. Over the past 20 years, according to National Health Service data, the prescription of anxiolytic benzodiazepines has increased slightly. The use of hypnotics has continued unchanged but with a switch from the benzodiazepines to the shorter-acting but similar "z-drugs".

Two approaches are needed. First, the prescription of benzodiazepines should be totally discouraged because it is impossible to distinguish those potential recipients who will use them without problems from those who become physically dependent and cannot withdraw easily. Long-term (beyond 3-6 months) usage is being deemed by GP experts in medico-legal cases as possible substandard care, so personal injury law will come to govern these prescribing practices.

Second, specialist clinics should be expanded countrywide, not curtailed. Requiring these clinics to treat the entire range of substance abuse problems is totally inappropriate and even counterproductive, as my patients used to insist.

Malcolm Lader OBE, LLB, DSc, PhD, MD, FRC Psych, FMedSci
Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychopharmacology, King's College London

Doctor's orders ruined our lives, say 'benzo' addicts, The Times, October 6, 2012

NHS cuts funding to specialist charities, The Times, October 2, 2012

More Benzodiazepine News Stories in 'The Times', October 1, 2012

Media Archive · Ashton Manual · APPGITA

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