In September 2019, the Irish Medical Council warned doctors about over-prescribing of a range of highly addictive drugs.
They said that benzodiazepines and so-called Z-drugs (primarily sleeping tablets) should only be given to patients when absolutely required, and for a very limited time.
Addiction problems are widespread but it is difficult to even accurately know how many of these drugs are being consumed each year in Ireland.
Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that include Xanax and Valium. It is the most common prescription drug group implicated in poisoning deaths in Ireland, according to the most recently released figures from 2017. All 139 benzodiazepine deaths that year also involved other drugs, mainly opioids.
GPs face significant problems dealing with patients, with some hooked to benzodiazepines for decades while others will switch doctor if their prescription is reduced.
In recent years, tightening of prescription practices has led to the growing availability of new benzodiazepine type substances - ‘street’ and ‘fake’ tablets - for sale on the streets, with some which were laced with deadly substances such as rat poison linked to several deaths.
HELP US INVESTIGATE
We want to look into the issue of benzodiazepine addiction in Ireland, its prevalence and what is being done about it.
We will dig deeper into the official data that is available to see if over-prescribing is particularly problematic in certain areas of Ireland.
We also want to examine what actions have been taken by the health services here to address the problems caused by prescription drug addiction.
If you want to make a contribution to help this investigation happen, click the 'Fund This Proposal' button. Noteworthy investigations are sourced from and crowdfunded by the public.