Reducing benzodiazepine prescribing in primary care

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Liz Hughes summarises two recent studies (1 systematic review and 1 RCT) that both investigate brief interventions for reducing the use of benzodiazepines in primary care.

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Why do GPs over prescribe benzodiazepines? Synthesis of qualitative studies

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Benzodiazepines are used to treat insomnia, anxiety and chronic back pain due to their sedative and muscle relaxing effects. They’ve got a sting in the tail though and can cause memory disruption, loss of coordination and dependence if used long term. It’s therefore recommended that other treatments, such as psychological interventions, are tried first and [read the full story…]

Illegal drug use during pregnancy is associated with a host of complications for both Mother and baby

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The potential dangers of illegal drug use are never far from the media spotlight, and drug use during pregnancy may be associated with particular health problems both for the Mother and baby. Drug use during pregnancy has been linked with a number of negative outcomes, for example, cocaine use has been linked with an increased [read the full story…]

Benzodiazepines and dementia risk: another reason to caution against long-term use

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Benzodiazepines are an effective treatment for acute anxiety and transient insomnia, but guidelines advise that they should not be prescribed for longer than a few weeks as their long-term use can lead to dependency and falls in older people (amongst other things). The evidence appears compelling and yet benzodiazepines are still widely prescribed in the [read the full story…]

The risks of benzodiazepines, antidepressants and antipsychotics in adults with schizophrenia

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Polypharmacy is the simultaneous use of two or more drugs to treat a single health condition. Polypharmacy is often used in the treatment of schizophrenia where people are regularly prescribed two or more antipsychotics, as well as antidepressants and/or benzodiazepines, although there is little evidence to prove that these combinations are more effective than monotherapy. [read the full story…]

Treating depression and anxiety with the benzodiazepine alprazolam: new Cochrane review recommends caution

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Antidepressants and psychotherapies are the mainstay for treating depression, but another option is the benzodiazepine drug alprazolam, which is recommended for treating depression when anxiety is also involved. Some doctors prescribe a short course of benzodiazepines to help depressed and anxious patients, but this is not supported by NICE guidance. High-potency tranquillisers like alprazolam are [read the full story…]

Benzodiazepines and Z drugs may increase the risk of death and cancer, according to new cohort study

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The prescribing of benzodiazepines and ‘Z drugs’ in general practice in England has stayed pretty consistent or increased slightly over the last 5 years, despite safety warnings about the risks of these drugs. I blogged about this back in May last year when the Department of Health highlighted two new studies by National Addiction Centre [read the full story…]

Sending letters can help people stop taking benzodiazepines, says new systematic review

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As people get older they tend to have more problems sleeping. Sometimes they are prescribed medication (hynoptic drugs) to help them sleep. Commonly used hynoptics are benzodiazepines and Z drugs (zopiclone, zolpidem, zaleplon). Researchers from Australia have just published a systematic review of randomised controlled trials (ref 1) that evaluates the effectiveness of simple ‘minimal [read the full story…]

Is it safe to prescribe benzodiazepines and opioids together?

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Benzodiazepines are most commonly prescribed for the management of anxiety and insomnia. They can also be used for sedation or amnesia before medical or surgical procedures, treatment of seizure, treatment of alcohol or sedative withdrawal, or acute agitation. Known side effects include drowsiness, fatigue and ataxia (the loss of full control of bodily movements). Opioids [read the full story…]