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Those who have survived the adverse effects of long-term benzodiazepine use are appalled to see them now flourishing as drugs of abuse


Over 1 million people in the UK are currently long-term prescribed benzodiazepine (BDZ) users (an average of 150 for every GP practice). [4]

World-wide, BDZ use underpins a large proportion of all illicit drug use and is mainly used as a 'secondary' drug by most substance misusers.
90% of drug misusers attending for treatment in inner London have taken BDZs (DOH et.al.1999, [Lader & Russell, 1997])- a pattern reflected around the world.

Alterations in brain chemistry caused by long-term BDZ use are hard to reverse and causing severe addiction with protracted withdrawal symptoms (which can last for years), making these drugs a considerable danger to public health as drugs of abuse.

The UK Home Office advisory body on drug misuse - Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, (ACMD)recommends [1]that all benzodiazepines (BDZs) be rescheduled.

March 2001: The United Nations Economic and Social Council:In response to increasing misuse of BDZs issued wide-ranging recommendations to national and international authorities, the medical profession and the pharnmaceutical industry including:

  • Tighter controls on supply, prescribing and trafficking of BDZs.
  • More Education, research, monitoring and treatment on BDZs.

1999: Department of Health (UK) issued guidelines for treatment and withdrawal of BDZs, amidst growing concern at the continued rise in their misuse.

DANGERS
Increased drug-related deaths, (3) attributable to BDZs, (particulary mixed with opiates) has been noted by the ACMD and was recently reported by Channel 4 News.

Children born to drug misusers: Face the same risks as children of prescribed BDZ users, ie: dangers at birth and interference with neurodevelopment, but the risks are compounded in drug misusers.
Increased dosage and polydrug use, make these babies particularly vulnerable.
The ACMD notes that sub-lethal amounts of BDZs and opiates when taken together are a fatal cocktail( in adults),even though acting on different respiratory mechanisms in the brain. [3]The risks to a newborn baby exposed to this "lethal cocktail" are likely to be even greater than in adults.

An increased incidence of sudden infant death,(SIDS) in babies born to opiate users is well documented.[6] The risk of SIDS from BDZ exposure has been little researched. Current evidence points to BDZS as a contributory, or causative factor in SIDS - further research is urgently needed in this area. BACK TO TOP


International Narcotics Control Board (INCB):
"The adverse effects of such abuse(BDZS) include physical addiction with severe withdrawal symptoms, amnesia, lack of control over behaviour and other physical and psychological complications ."(2)
Dr Suresh Kumar, SAHAI Trust, India:
"Benzodiazepine abuse is common among injecting drug users as indicated by studies in Europe, USA, UK, Australia and India and is associated with markedly worse outcomes. Benzodiazepine injecting is associated with frequent sharing, sharing with more people, recent sharing, high levels of poly drug abuse, psychological and social impairment, involvement in current crime, poorer health and high levels of anxiety and depression".

Professor Malcolm Lader, Royal Maudsley Hospital:
"It is more difficult to withdraw someone from benzodiazepines than it is heroin, it just seems that the dependency is so ingrained and the withdrawal symptoms are so intolerable that people have a great deal of problem coming off. The other aspect is that with heroin, usually the withdrawal is over within a week or so. With benzodiazepines, a proportion of patients go on to long-term withdrawal and they have very unpleasant symptoms for month after month. I get letters from people saying you can go on for two years or more." (5)
Dr Nicholas Seivewright, Barcelona Conference 1998:
"It is a matter of common clinical experience to encounter an individual in a detoxification unit who appears reasonably happy about the prospect of living without opiates but is much more apprehensive about managing without benzodiazepines"
Report from inspectors of Swansea Prison re:BDZs, June 1999
"We were told that misuse of benzodiazepine (BDZ) tranquillisers was a major problem in South Wales and we have been told the same in other South Wales prisons. We have been told that prescribing of BDZs beyond the guidelines in the British National Formulary is by no means uncommon outside prison. Certainly BDZs were the commonest drug found by health care staff urine screening new receptions to Swansea".

* NB: The owner of this site wishes to make clear that a significant proportion of people who take benzodiazepines (both babies and adults) do not suffer the adverse consequences featured here. The concern of Benzact is the significant proportion of those who are adversely affected by benzodiazepines.

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Not all views expressed on this site are necessarily the views of the owner.