Benzodiazepines are a group of medicines which are often used to treat anxiety e.g. diazepam, or used as sleeping tablets e.g. Temazepam or nitrazepam. The “Z” drugs (Zopiclone, Zolpidem) are other sleeping tablets that are similar to benzodiazepines in how they work.
These medicines can be effective at easing the symptoms of anxiety or aiding sleep and are meant for short-term use i.e. 2-4 weeks. If you take a benzodiazepine or “Z” drug regularly, after a few weeks the body and brain become used to it and the drug gradually loses its effect. There is a good chance that if you take a benzodiazepine or “Z” drug for more than 4 weeks you will become dependent on them/addicted to them. These medicines can cause side-effects when taken long-term such as memory problems, mood swings, drowsiness and slower reaction times.
Recognising the high use of these medicines in the Western Trust area the practice has put in place a reduction programme to help patients slowly reduce these medicines so they can start to feel more energetic and alert. This programme is run by our practice pharmacist along with our GPs and can include input from our practice social worker and mental health practitioner where appropriate.
The programme has already helped a large number of patients reduce these medicines until stopped and has many patients currently reducing. If you are taking these medicines and would like help stopping please contact our practice pharmacist today.
Please be aware that all patients who are in receipt of these medications will be actively encouraged and supported to reduce once it is felt clinically appropriate.