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Sedative prescriptions in Ireland are higher in areas of greatest deprivation

A new Irish study published in the journal "European Addiction Research" suggests that social structure influences primary care sedative prescribing.

Prescription rates for benzodiazepine are higher in more deprived areas than in less deprived areas and in middle-aged people (45-64 years). The prescribing rates also show a gender difference which increases steadily from early adult life. Women of middle age are the commonest recipients of a benzodiazepine prescription. This pattern may be associated with cultural beliefs and practices which tend to reinforce the concept of benzodiazepines as a means to cope with adversity, used in the absence or deficiency of more effective treatments or services.

Misuse of prescription sedatives is a significant problem for addiction treatment services. Benzodiazepines are the most extensively used psychotropic drugs in the world, and are generally considered versatile and valuable drugs for use in clinical practice. However, the potential for misuse and dependence must not be overlooked. Benzodiazepines were heavily marketed until the issue of dependence was clearly identified.

The aim of this study was to assist in elucidating the underlying dynamics of benzodiazepine use and potential misuse. The prescribing patterns of diazepam – the most commonly prescribed and misused benzodiazepine – in disadvantaged Irish communities were examined, and factors which may predict diazepam consumption in that population were identified. Prescribing trends were examined for those aged 16-69 years in 2002 in a region of the state-funded General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme. Material deprivation was based on the 2002 Small Area Health Research Unit deprivation index. The average defined daily dose was calculated and logistic regression analysis was used to predict diazepam use by age, gender and deprivation index.

Though the study cohort covers only one region of Ireland, it shows that even among the already relatively economically deprived GMS population, prescribing patterns vary with deprivation level.

Carla Holmes | alfa
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