Doctors Warned to Stop Overprescribing Benzodiazepines

Irish doctors have been warned by the Medical Council to stop overprescribing benzodiazepines and other similar medications. 

The Medical council urged doctors to stop overprescribing benzodiazepines, z-drugs, and pregabalin or else they will face disciplinary actions. 

These drugs are often used to help patients with sleep problems or severe anxiety, but are only meant to be a short-term aid. A development in overreliance and dependence on the drug can negatively impact the safety of patients, the council said. 

President of the Medical Council, Dr Rita Doyle said to The Journal, “While benzodiazepines may have a role in the treatment of a patient on a time-limited basis, caution and strict monitoring are required when they are prescribed,” 

Dr Doyle then encouraged doctor to engage with the HSE’s Addiction Services for support and guidance if they have concerns regarding these prescriptions. 

“Any doctor whose level of prescribing is above the normal range, and who is not working in an exceptional area of practice, and who does not make any effort to refer their patients to support or reduce their high-prescribing levels may require formal investigation by the Medical Council.” 

However, she added that any patients that are prescribed these drugs does not stop taking them without their doctor’s advice. 

Dr Tom O’Dowd. former professor of general practice at Trinity College Dublin told RTÉ radio, “This is a big issue for GPs and we have been calling for help for a long time” 

O’Dowd added that the warning not only helps patients, but helps doctors explain the dangers of over prescription to patients. 

“We will be able to say to patients, look this gets you in trouble and it gets me in trouble.” 

The Medical Council pointed to a specific situation in their statement where a sole general practitioner received complaints by another professional of irresponsibly prescribing these drugs, specifically benzodiazepines, to patients and particularly to patients with addiction problems. 

Following a public inquiry, they found the practitioner had caused patients’ reliance on the drugs, failed to carry out adequate history and examination, and prescribed drugs in inappropriate quantities and strengths.