The Medical Council has issued guidelines to doctors for the prescribing of benzodiazepine medications. The document equates the use of benzodiazepines with opiates and warns doctors that any inappropriate prescribing will be negatively viewed by the council.
Making comparisons between drugs such as diazepam and methadone is utterly alarmist and highly inappropriate. Was any member of the council with training in psychopharmacology involved in drawing up the recommendations? How can such hyperbole be justified on the basis of scientific evidence?
In my clinical practice, I have always taken a highly cautious approach to benzodiazepine prescribing and limiting any potential for dependence. It is clear that the majority of patients who take benzodiazepines for appropriate indications do not become dependent. Those who are likely to become dependent should not be prescribed such medication, especially in the longterm.
Many patients taking benzodiazepines in a manner sensibly prescribed by their clinicians will be disturbed by the current statement and many may choose to discontinue treatment.
The statement issued by the Medical Council has the rigour and balance of an article from a tabloid newspaper. Those involved in drawing up the recommendations should consider their positions.
They are not acting in the best interest of patients. They should take a refresher course in pharmacology.
Professor/Head, Department of Psychiatry,
University College Cork