New online benzodiazepine hub hopes to reduce harm

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The resources provide advice and support for the management of benzodiazepine addiction and abuse in primary care.

Benzodiazepines are one of the most misused classes of prescription drugs in Australia.


NPS MedicineWise has partnered with Reconnection to offer a suite of benzodiazepine harm reduction resources for healthcare professionals and consumers.


Although commonly prescribed in a variety of health care settings, drugs also pose the real threat of causing harm to people who take them, especially if prescribed over a long period of time.


“We know that long-term use of benzodiazepines is associated with a number of harms, including addiction,” said NPS MedicineWise Medical Advisor Dr. Caroline West. newsGP.


“Evidence also shows that the risk of addiction increases significantly beyond four weeks of use.”


One of the most misused classes of prescription drugs in Australia, benzodiazepines are also the most common drug class implicated in overdose incidents and drug-related suicide attempts.


They account for approximately 50-67% of drug-related deaths nationwide, either in motor vehicle accidents where they are the most common prescription drug, or in combination with other nervous system depressants. central such as opiates and alcohol.


However, the drug continues to be prescribed for a range of conditions including anxiety, sleep disorders and panic attacks and often as first-line agents.


“Although commonly prescribed for anxiety and sleep, especially in the elderly, benzodiazepines are not the recommended first-line treatment option for these conditions,” Dr. West said.


“Every effort should be made to test first-line options, if available, including non-pharmacological strategies, before considering benzodiazepines.”


“If prescribed, they should be used as part of a broader management strategy that includes a review and reduction plan, and the duration should be limited to the shortest period possible to avoid the risk of addiction and abuse.”


The new online information center offers a number of key resources to help healthcare professionals and consumers reduce their use of benzodiazepines, including:

A number of practical steps are also provided.

Among them are recommendations to use benzodiazepines only for the appropriate indications, to limit use to 2-4 weeks, to assess effectiveness at one week, to prescribe only to well-known patients, to ask specialist advice before prescribing benzodiazepines for panic disorder, careful assessment of risks and benefits, and early identification of patients taking high doses.

“We have a number of resources available to GPs that can be used both inside and outside of consultations,” Dr West said.

“The patient-focused benzodiazepine reduction plan, for example, can be used with patients willing to reduce their benzodiazepine use at the point of care.

“Our main goal with these resources is to encourage a two-way conversation that recognizes the importance of including the patient in treatment decisions, which in turn can increase the likelihood of successful reduction.”

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Misuse of benzodiazepine addiction


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