Substance misuse in young people in Ireland - a focus on benzodiazepines

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Murphy, Kevin D.
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University College Cork
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Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that are prescribed for the treatment of anxiety and insomnia. Due to the powerful tolerance that can develop as a result of sustained use, benzodiazepines can also be dependence-forming. Benzodiazepine dependence can occur from prescribed and from recreational use, and is a significant issue for young people. The consequences of benzodiazepine dependence include cognitive and learning impairment, depressive symptoms, and increased suicide risk. Despite these risks, the nature of youth benzodiazepine use has not been explored to the same extent as other drugs. A review of existing Irish literature revealed that benzodiazepines are one of the five most recreationally-used drugs among young people. Analyses of young people attending a treatment centre indicated that young attendees from urban areas were more likely to be referred to the centre because of benzodiazepines than rural attendees. Further examination of the centre’s attendees showed that regular benzodiazepine users experienced more paranoia, loss of interest in sport, and pallor than non-regular users. Analysis of benzodiazepine prescribing to young people revealed that approximately one in seven young people were prescribed benzodiazepines for periods greater than recommended by national guidelines. Young benzodiazepine users discussed in interviews that they took benzodiazepines to escape from negative feelings and that they are generally taken in a social setting. Further interviews with youth counsellors and general practitioners highlighted that both family and community attitude to benzodiazepine use can impact on a young person’s benzodiazepine usage. Suggestions for reducing benzodiazepine use such as psychological alternatives to medication, public awareness campaigns and prescribing restrictions are provided. Future research can elaborate upon this work to determine other methods of reducing youth benzodiazepine use and the damage that it causes to the young people themselves, but also to their families, their community, and society at large.
Benzodiazepines , Young people , Substance misuse
Murphy, K. 2014. Substance misuse in young people in Ireland - a focus on benzodiazepines. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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