Legal tranquillisers are the most common drug in volved in intentional overdoses in Ireland.
The National Suicide Research Foundation said drug overdoses are the main method of self-harming in the country.
The foundation is calling for an initiative in south-west Dublin, which has seen a reduction in the number of intentional overdoses involving minor tranquillisers, also known as benzodiazepines, to be extended nationwide.
A study by Dr Ella Arensman, director of research at the facility, found that drug overdose accounted for 77% of all self-harm acts documented in the National Registry of Deliberate Self-Harm in 2010.
It found that rates were far higher among women (77%) than in men (65%).
“Since the start of the registry, minor tranquillisers [benzodiazepines] are the most common drug in intentional overdoses, representing 29% [3,500] of self-harm episodes presenting to hospital emergency departments each year,” she said.
She said an investigation of trends in intentional overdoses over time showed the five most frequently used minor tranquillisers were Diazepam, Dalmane, Xanax, Stilnoct, and Zimovane, with Diazepam the most common.
The research found there was considerable variation on the type of drug use between hospital regions.
However, Diazepam was by far the most popular in the southern region, Dublin regions, south-east, and west/north-west.
Dr Arensam said rates of self-harm had risen between 2007 and 2010, with a sharp rise (of 27%) among men. She linked this to the deepening economic recession.
Roisín Shortall, the drugs strategy minister, revealed to the Irish Examiner earlier this month that a number of initiatives were under way to deal with over-prescribing of benzodiazepines and their mass importation.
The HSE is identifying and targeting those GPs and pharmacies involved in excessive prescribing, while legislation is being drawn up to tackle street dealing.
A subsequent report in the Irish Examiner revealed that around 315,000 prescription tablets have been seized by customs in the first four months of this year and that, of the 1,500 arrests for drug dealing in Dublin city centre between September and December last year, just 60 were for illegal drugs, with most being for benzodiazepines.
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