Press Release

Minister Shortall launches Report on Responding to Benzodiazepine use in Ballymun

Ms. Roisin Shortall TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Primary Care launched a report today on responding to benzodiazepine use in Ballymun, and announced her intention to introduce an initiative to tackle over-prescribing.

The report outlines the operation and development of the GP-Community Partnership Addiction Project over its first three years of implementation (September 2006-September 2009). The GP-Community Partnership Addiction Project is managed by the Ballymun Family Practice and funded by the Ballymun Local Drugs Task Force.

The main aim of the GP-Community Addiction Project is to develop services for patients with benzodiazepine problems that present in primary care. The model proposed was that GPs in the practice would by supported by an addiction counsellor who would be integrated into each practice. 124 patients of the Ballymun Family Practice attended the Addiction Counselling Service during the period January 2007 to December 2010.

The report found that an addiction counselling service is an effective strategy to complement existing general practitioner practices and recommended that the delivery of a counselling service be considered as a model for future pilot projects.

The project evolved from one that primarily envisaged meeting the needs of clients with a benzodiazepine addiction to one that now also has the ability to address other addiction issues that may present. The Ballymun Local Drugs Task Force will continue to monitor the project and its capacity to respond to clients presenting to GPs with addiction problems.

Launching the Report on Responding to Benzodiazepine Use in Ballymun, the Minister of State said “this Report and the recent Health Research Board report on problem benzodiazepine use in Ireland both highlight the increase in cases of benzodiazepines as problem substances and the need to address benzodiazepine misuse issues in our society. This pilot project in Ballymun, which involved local GPs working in partnership with an addiction counsellor, demonstrates how innovative approaches can be successfully adopted to address benzodiazepine problems in the primary care setting”

The Minister said that “addressing the issues associated with benzodiazepines as problem substances is a priority for me and I am currently developing proposals under the Misuse of Drugs legislation to introduce stricter controls on benzodiazepines”

“I also intend to introduce an initiative soon to tackle over-prescribing. We need to look more closely at prescribing patterns for benzodiazepines in order to identify those areas that are out of line with best practice and I have asked the HSE to look at this and report back to me. I am hopeful that this work will get underway in the coming months and that it will have an impact on consumption levels of benzodiazepines in Ireland, which are unacceptably high.”